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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Aftershocks rattle Italian quake zone; toll rises to 250

Aftershocks rattle Italian quake zone; toll rises to 250

AP Photo
Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses following Wednesday's earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. Rescue crews raced against time Thursday looking for survivors from the earthquake that leveled three towns in central Italy, but the death toll rose to 247 and Italy once again anguished over trying to secure its medieval communities built on seismic lands.
PESCARA DEL TRONTO, Italy (AP) -- As the search for survivors ground on, Premier Matteo Renzi pledged new money and measures Thursday to rebuild quake-devastated central Italy amid mounting soul-searching over why the seismic-prone country has continually failed to ensure its buildings can withstand such catastrophes.

A day after the deadly quake killed 250 people, a 4.3 magnitude aftershock sent up plumes of thick gray dust in the hard-hit town of Amatrice. The aftershock crumbled already cracked buildings, rattled residents and closed already clogged roads.

It was only one of the more than 470 temblors that have followed Wednesday's pre-dawn quake.

Firefighters and rescue crews using sniffer dogs worked in teams around the hard-hit areas in central Italy, pulling chunks of cement, rock and metal from mounds of rubble where homes once stood. Rescuers refused to say when their work would shift from saving lives to recovering bodies, noting that one person was pulled alive from the rubble 72 hours after the 2009 quake in the nearby town of L'Aquila.

"We will work relentlessly until the last person is found, and make sure no one is trapped," said Lorenzo 
Botti, a rescue team spokesman.

Worst affected by the quake were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, 25 kilometers (15 miles) further to the east.

Many were left homeless by the scale of the destruction, their homes and apartments declared uninhabitable. Some survivors, escorted by firefighters were allowed to go back inside homes briefly Thursday to get essential necessities for what will surely be an extended absence.

"Last night we slept in the car. Tonight, I don't know," said Nello Caffini as he carried his sister-in-law's belongings on his head after being allowed to go quickly into her home in Pescara del Tronto.

Caffini has a house in nearby Ascoli, but said his sister-in-law was too terrified by the aftershocks to go inside it.

"When she is more tranquil, we will go to Ascoli," he said.

Charitable assistance began pouring into the earthquake zone in traffic-clogging droves Thursday. Church groups from a variety of Christian denominations, along with farmers offering donated peaches, pumpkins and plums, sent vans along the one-way road into Amatrice that was already packed with emergency vehicles and trucks carrying sniffer dogs.

Other assistance was spiritual.

"When we learned that the hardest hit place was here, we spoke to our bishop and he encouraged us to come here to comfort the families of the victims," said a priest who gave his name only as Father Marco as he walked through Pescara del Tronto. "They have given us a beautiful example, because their pain did not take away their dignity."

Italy's civil protection agency said the death toll had risen to 250 by Thursday afternoon, with more than 180 of the fatalities in Amatrice. At least 365 others were hospitalized, and 215 people were pulled from the rubble alive since the quake struck. A Spaniard and five Romanians were among the dead, according to their governments.

There was no clear estimate of how many people might still be missing, since the rustic area was packed with summer vacationers. The Romanian government alone said 11 of its citizens were missing.

As the search effort continued, the soul-searching began.

Premier Renzi authorized a preliminary 50 million euros in emergency funding and the government cancelled taxes for residents, pro-forma measures that are just the start of what will be a long and costly rebuilding campaign. He announced a new initiative, "Italian Homes," to answer years of criticism over shoddy construction across the country, which has the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe.

But he also said that it was "absurd" to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings.

"It's illusory to think you can control everything," he told a news conference. "It's difficult to imagine it could 
have been avoided simply using different building technology. We're talking about medieval-era towns."

Those old towns do not have to conform to the country's anti-seismic building codes. Making matters worse, those codes often aren't applied even when new buildings are built.

Armando Zambrano, the head of Italy's National Council of Engineers, said the technology exists to reinforce old buildings and prevent such high death tolls when quakes strike every few years. While he estimated that it would cost up to 93 billion euros ($105 billion) to reinforce all of the historic structures across the country, he said targeted efforts in the riskiest areas could be done for less.

"We are able to prevent all these deaths. The problem is actually doing it," he told The Associated Press. 

"These tragedies keep happening because we don't intervene. After each tragedy we say we will act but then the weeks go by and nothing happens."

Some experts estimate that 70 percent of Italy's buildings aren't built to anti-seismic standards, though not all are in high-risk areas.

Funding shortfalls and bureaucracy are obstacles to making the country's buildings quake-resistant. A new law tries to encourage homeowners to make their homes earthquake-proof by reimbursing 65 percent of the cost over 10 years, but it isn't enough to push Italians, who are facing years of economic stagnation, to put up the cash to make the upgrades.

Compounding the problem, many of the oldest and most vulnerable structures are in remote villages inhabited mostly by retired Italians getting by on pensions with no cash to spare. In the cities, upgrades are stifled by the condominium-style rules of buildings requiring the agreement of multiple owners for such investments.

"We're among the best in the world in managing emergencies," Renzi said, praising the men and women, many of them volunteers, who jump into action when crises hit. "But it's not enough to be in the vanguard in emergencies."

Geologists surveyed the damage Thursday to determine which buildings were still inhabitable, while Culture Ministry teams were fanning out to assess the damage to some of the region's cultural treasures, especially its medieval-era churches.

Italian news reports said prosecutors investigating the quake were looking in particular into the collapse of Amatrice's "Romolo Capranica" school, which was restored in 2012 using funds set aside after the last major quake in 2009.

In recent Italian quakes, some modern buildings - many of them public institutions - have been the deadliest. Those included the university dormitory that collapsed in the 2009 L'Aquila quake, killing 11 students, and the elementary school that crumbled in San Giuliano di Puglia in 2002, killing 27 children - the town's entire first-grade class - while surrounding buildings survived unscathed.

Major quakes in Italy are often followed by criminal charges being filed against architects, builders and officials responsible for public works. In the case of the L'Aquila quake, prosecutors also put six geologists on trial for allegedly failing to adequately warn residents about the temblor. Their convictions were overturned on appeal.

In Pescara del Tronto, rescue crews were looking Thursday for three people believed crushed in a hard-to-reach area.

"The dogs from our dog rescue unit make us think there could be something," said Danilo Dionisi, a spokesman for the firefighters.

Emergency services set up tent cities around the quake-devastated towns to accommodate the homeless, housing about 1,200 people overnight. In Amatrice, 50 elderly people and children spent the night inside a local sports facility.

"It's not easy for them," said civil protection volunteer Tiziano De Carolis, who was helping to care for the homeless in Amatrice. "They have lost everything: the work of an entire life, like those who have a business, a shop, a pharmacy, a grocery store."

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Latest: Officials try to increase swimmer Feigen's fine

The Latest: Officials try to increase swimmer Feigen's fine

 AP Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- The Latest on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (all times local):
8 p.m.

Brazilian prosecutors made a last-ditch effort to increase the amount of money that American swimmer James Feigen pays before he leaves the country.

In a statement late Friday, prosecutors said they would appeal a judge's ruling that Feigen pay about $10,800 to a charity and ask that he pay $47,000 instead.

But Feigen was already at the airport.

The fine dispute is largely a moot question. Feigen will be out of Brazil long before a decision on the appeal is made. If prosecutors win, Feigen would have to pay the fine if he ever wanted to return to Brazil.

Earlier this week, a judge had ordered the passport seized while police investigated what swimmer Ryan Lochte had said was an armed robbery.

Police have said that the robbery story was fabricated. Police have said that Lochte, Feigen and two other swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom early Sunday after a night of partying and were confronted by armed guards.
7:40 p.m.
Tom Daley of Britain is the leading qualifier after the men's 10-meter platform diving preliminaries.
He totaled 474.65 points over six rounds Friday night, getting a perfect 10 for his fifth dive, a forward reverse 3 ½ somersault. Daley earned bronze four years ago in London.

Qui Bo of China is second at 464.85. He was the silver medalist in London. Qui's teammate, Chen Aisen, finished third at 448.15.

Defending Olympic champion David Boudia of the United States was fourth at 410.15.
Among the men moving on was American Steele Johnson, who grabbed the 18th and last spot for Saturday's semifinals.
7:25 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: Germany has defeated Sweden 2-1 to win the women's soccer gold medal for the first time.

Germany opened the scoring with a goal by Dzsenifer Marozsan in the 48th minute and added to the lead with an own goal by Swedish defender Linda Sembrant in the 62nd.

Sweden pulled one closer with Stina Blackstenius in the 67th but was not able to get the equalizer despite some good late chances at the Maracana Stadium.

A two-time World Cup champion, Germany had previously won three bronze medals. It was playing in the Olympic final for the first time.

Sweden has won its first silver in women's soccer. It had never been on the podium.
7:20 p.m.
A Brazilian court says that the passport of American swimmer James Feigen has been returned after he made a payment of approximately $10,800 for falsely reporting a crime.

A court statement late Friday said the fine had been paid and the passport returned, meaning that Feigen is free to leave the country.

A judge had ordered the passport be seized earlier this week while police investigated what swimmer Ryan Lochte had said was an armed robbery.

Police have said that the robbery story was fabricated. Police have said that Lochte, Feigen and two other swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom early Sunday after a night of partying and were confronted by armed guards.
6:55 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT-UPSET: Britain stunned the top-ranked Netherlands in a shootout to win its first-ever gold medal in women's field hockey.

The Netherlands was trying to become the first nation to win three consecutive gold medals on the women's side Friday night.

The score was tied 3-all at the end of regulation, during which the Netherlands outshot Britain 17-7.

Britain's Helen Richardson-Walsh scored a penalty stroke in the shootout, then Hollie Webb scored the winner. Britain goalie Maddie Hinch did not allow a goal in the shootout.
6:50 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: Iran's Hassan Yazdani scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds to win the gold medal in men's 74-kilogram freestyle wrestling.

Yazdani was down 6-2 at one point to Russian Aniuar Geduev, who earlier Friday upset American favorite Jordan Burroughs.

But Yazdani rallied despite continued stops so the Russian could adjust the bandages covering up his bloody head, exposing Geduev on his last move to win 6-6 on criteria.
6:45 p.m.
Australia's Chloe Esposito has captured gold in women's pentathlon with an Olympic record of 1,372 points.
Esposito started the running/shooting combination final in fourth, but ran past her competitors with a strong push.

France's Elodie Clouvel captured silver with 1,356 points and Poland's Oktawia Nowacka earned bronze after leading through the equestrian event.

Esposito was seventh after swimming, sixth through fencing and moved up to fourth with a solid ride in equestrian. Her father competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and her brother, Max, is a member of the Australian men's pentathlon team.
6:35 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: Australia's Chloe Esposito has captured gold in women's pentathlon after starting the final segment fourth.

(Corrects item to show Esposito started the final segment fourth.)
6:25 p.m.
Germany and Sweden were tied 0-0 at halftime of the women's soccer final at the Maracana Stadium.

Both teams had a few good chances to score but couldn't capitalize.

It is the first Olympic final for both teams. It also is the first all-European final since women's soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996.

Germany has won the bronze medal three times, in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Sweden has never been on the podium.
6:20 p.m.
South Korea will have another chance for a gold medal in taekwondo - the sport it created - when Oh Hyeri fights in the women's 67-kilogram final Friday night.

Oh, ranked sixth, will face France's number one Haby Niare, who won a bronze at the European championships in May. South Korea's Kim So-Hui won the women's 49-kilogram division in taekwondo Wednesday.

The gold in the men's 80-kilogram division will be contested by Britain's fifth-ranked Lutalo Muhammad and Cote d'Ivoire's Cheick Sallah Cisse, who won the African Championships and is seeded third.

Muhammad previously won a bronze at the London Games and beat taekwondo's most decorated athlete, American Steven Lopez in the quarterfinals.

Leading medal contender Aaron Cook, who was born and raised in the U.K. but fights for Moldova, was eliminated in the first round. Top-seeded Mahdi Khodabakhshi also was knocked out in the quarterfinals.
5:55 p.m.
The International Olympic Committee has set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the incident involving Ryan Lochte and three of his U.S. swimming teammates at a Rio de Janeiro gas station.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams tells The Associated Press the panel was formed Friday to look into the behavior of Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen.

Adams had no other immediate details.

IOC disciplinary commissions have the power to issue sanctions.

Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, apologized Friday for his behavior surrounding the early-morning incident. He reiterated his view that a stranger pointed a gun at him and demanded money to let him leave the station.

Lochte had called it a gunpoint robbery; Brazilian police said he and the three other swimmers vandalized a bathroom while intoxicated and were confronted by armed security guards.
5:50 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: Georgia wrestler Vladimer Khinchegashvili has won the 57-kilogram gold medal in the men's freestyle tournament.
Khinchegashvili scored the final point to beat Japan's Rei Higuchi 3-3 on criteria on Saturday.

Khinchegashvili, who won silver at the London Games four years ago, is just the third Georgian to win Olympic gold. He also won the world title last year.
5:35 p.m.
The U.S. men's basketball team has advanced to its third-straight Olympic gold-medal game, beating Spain 82-76 on Friday.

Klay Thompson scored 22 points for the Americans, who will play Australia or Serbia on Sunday for their third-consecutive Olympic title.

The U.S. was just good enough again against Spain, winning a much different game than the all-offense matchups that decided the last two gold-medal games. This one featured several technical fouls and neither team got into an offensive flow. It was the lowest-scoring game for the Americans in the Olympics since the 2004 semifinals, when they managed 81 in a loss to Argentina.

Kevin Durant added 14 points and Kyrie Irving had 13 for the U.S.

Pau Gasol scored 23 points for Spain, which made it tough on the Americans for the third straight Olympics, but again had to settle for coming close against the world's No. 1 team.
5:25 p.m.
Three Russian athletes, including a silver medalist in a track relay race, have been retroactively disqualified from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after they tested positive in rechecks of their doping samples.

The International Olympic Committee says Anastasia Kapachinskaya has been stripped of the silver in the women's 4x400 relay, along with her Russian teammates. Jamaica stands to move up from third to silver and Belarus from fourth to bronze.

The IOC says Kapachinskaya tested positive for the steroids stanozolol and turinabol. She also was disqualified from her fifth-place finish in the individual 400 meters.

Alexander Pogorelov tested positive for turinabol, and his fourth-place finish in the decathlon was annulled.
Ivan Yushkov, who finished 10th in the shot put, tested positive for stanozolol, turinabol and oxandrolone.

The IOC stores doping samples for 10 years so they can retested when improved methods become available. The three cases announced Friday were among 98 positive tests recorded in reanalysis of samples from Beijing and the 2012 London Games.
5:25 p.m.
Poland's Oktawia Nowacka has retained her lead through the equestrian portion of women's modern pentathlon.

Nowacka took the lead after winning the knock-out fencing portion and remained there with a solid ride on a course that had been giving riders trouble. She has 847 points and France's Elodie Clouvet is second with 835.

Canada's Melanie McCann is third with 818 points heading into the final event, a combination of running and shooting.
5:20 p.m.
France left it to the last second, but beat Germany 29-28 to qualify for the gold medal game in Olympic men's handball Friday.

European champion Germany came from seven goals down to tie the score at 28-28, but in the last second Daniel Narcisse scored for Olympic and world champion France with a low shot to take the win.

That sparked wild celebrations from the French players, who will chase a record third consecutive gold medal when they face either Poland or Denmark in Sunday's final.

Narcisse led France with seven goals, while Uwe Gensheimer had 11 for the Germans. Goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer was a key player on the French team, making 12 saves off 39 shots.
5:15 p.m.
Claressa Shields is one win away from her second Olympic boxing gold medal, and the American middleweight is making it look easy.

Shields won a unanimous decision over Kazakhstan's Dariga Shakimova on Friday, dominating the scorecards while punching circles around another overmatched opponent.

Shields hasn't lost a fight since before the London Olympics, where she was the surprise gold medalist. Four years later, the gap between Shields and the other middleweights is still larger than in any division of the Rio field - and even Shields knows it.

She says she showed that she "was the better, stronger and more skilled fighter."

Shields faces the Netherlands' Nouchka Fontijn on Sunday for her second gold in a rematch of May's world championship final, won unanimously by Shields.
4:50 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: The U.S. women's water polo team is golden again.

Ashleigh Johnson made nine saves and Kiley Neushul scored three times, helping the United States beat Italy 12-5 in the Olympic final. The Americans stretched their win streak to 22 games with their sixth victory in Rio by a combined score of 73-32.

The U.S. also won gold in London in 2012. It's the only two-time winner since the tournament was added to the Games in 2000.

Federica Radicchi scored two goals for Italy, which also won its first five games in Rio.

Russia captured the bronze with a wild 19-18 win over Hungary in penalty shots.

In another Olympics dominated by U.S. women, Maggie Steffens and company shined brightly. The water polo team currently holds each of the major titles in the sport, adding a second Olympic gold to its world championship, World Cup and World League Super Final titles.
4:40 p.m.
MEDAL ALERT: French fighter Estelle Mossely has defeated China's Junhua Lin to win the lightweight gold medal.
Mossely celebrated her 24th birthday in style, winning a split decision to take gold. Each fighter won a scorecard 39-37 and one was scored 38-38. The Puerto Rican judge, who scored it a tie, got to choose the winner and she picked Mossely.

She has plenty to celebrate on the biggest day of her career. French fighter Tony Yoka, her boyfriend, won his super heavyweight fight earlier in the day.

Mossely jumped into his arms for a big hug. He dropped her off outside the ring, and she took a victory lap with the French flag fluttering behind her like a cape.
4:35 p.m.
Inbee Park of South Korea has a two-shot lead going into the final round at Olympic Golf Course.

But it wasn't easy in gusts that reached 30 mph. And she now has to cope with the No. 1 player in women's golf - Lydia Ko - for the gold medal.

Park made three bogeys on the back nine and shot a 1-under 70.

Ko raced into contention with her first hole-in-one, and the Kiwi made all pars in the wind on the back nine for a 65. She was two shots behind along with Gerina Piller, the American who has yet to win on the LPGA Tour. Piller shot a 68.

Even though Piller hasn't won, her most famous moment was last year in Germany when she made the winning point at the Solheim Cup. She says playing for the flag brings out the best in her.
Park was at 11-under 202.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Police chief was surprised by violence after fatal shooting

Police chief was surprised by violence after fatal shooting

AP Photo
Police move in on a group of protesters throwing rocks at them in Milwaukee, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. Police said one person was shot at a Milwaukee protest on Sunday evening and officers used an armored vehicle to retrieve the injured victim during a second night of unrest over the police shooting of a black man, but there was no repeat of widespread destruction of property.
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Following a night of violence that left half a dozen businesses in flames, the Milwaukee police chief expressed surprise at the level of unrest that erupted after the fatal shooting of a black man by a black officer.

"This was, quite frankly, unanticipated," Chief Edward Flynn said Monday, two days after the worst of the rioting hit the Sherman Park neighborhood on the city's economically depressed and largely black north side.

The chief's statement raised questions about whether authorities could have taken steps to curb the violence, perhaps by sharing details of the shooting earlier, including the officer's race or footage from his body camera.

Randolph McLaughlin, a Pace University law professor and a civil rights attorney, questioned how Milwaukee leaders could have expected the streets to stay quiet on Saturday night given the national debate about law enforcement and race.

"For a mayor to say everything's fine (and) we just killed somebody, that's turning a blind eye to his town," McLaughlin said.

He said Mayor Tom Barrett should have reached out to residents and community leaders and asked, "What do we need to do to make sure your community is safe?" McLaughlin said. "He needs to stay on the job."

David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis sociology professor who studies police use of deadly force, said it would not necessarily have helped for police to release the officer's race sooner. He pointed out that the city saw disruptions on Sunday night, after his race had been publicized, though the intensity was less than the previous night.

He also said the city may have hesitated to give the officer's race sooner for fear it would identify him.

Remy Cross, a criminologist at Webster University in St. Louis, said the officer's race probably does not matter to many people in the community.

"They see the institution as racist, not the individual," Cross said. "Once you put on the uniform, you're blue, and blue sees black as bad."

Flynn said it was "an error in narrative to assume" that because police shot someone that the shooting will be controversial "so let's have a riot."

Cecil Brewer, 67, who owns an apartment house directly across from the intersection where protesters burned a gas station on Saturday night and hurled rocks at police on Sunday night, said the rioting was all but inevitable.

"There's so much anger in these kids," Brewer said. The shooting "was like a spark in a powder keg. It doesn't matter to them if what the authorities are saying is true."

On Monday, the mayor issued a proclamation applying the city's curfew to 17-year-olds. Until then, it had applied to teenagers 16 or younger. Barrett also moved the summer curfew back by one hour, to 10 p.m., 
and warned that the rule would be enforced more tightly.

The problems began Saturday afternoon when police stopped a rental car that was driving suspiciously, Flynn said. Sylville Smith bolted from the car with a gun, leading an officer on a short foot chase before the officer shot the 23-year-old. Police said the man was fleeing a traffic stop but released few other details.

The violence erupted later that evening.

During a news conference around midnight calling for calm, Barrett said people were gathering at the scene when he left at 5 p.m. Saturday, but they were peaceful and he thought everything was under control.

At another news conference Sunday afternoon, Flynn offered new details, revealing that the officer who opened fire was black, like Smith, and said body-camera video showed Smith had turned toward the officer and refused to drop his weapon. He also said the officer shot Smith in the chest and arm. Some people interviewed on the north side had speculated that Smith was shot in the back.

The body-camera footage has not been released. It's in the custody of the state Justice Department, which is leading the investigation into the shooting.

Flynn activated the department's 150-member crowd-control team on Sunday night, and Gov. Scott Walker put the National Guard on standby if needed. Hundreds of people gathered near the scene of the shooting that evening, but remained peaceful. Most of them eventually dispersed.

Around 10:30 p.m., however, a group of perhaps 100 demonstrators began marching through the streets, eventually blocking an intersection next to a BP gas station that burned down the night before. They threw bottles, chunks of concrete and rocks at officers. Dozens of officers arrived and forced the group down the street.

Seven officers were injured and 14 people were arrested by the time it was over. An 18-year-old was shot near the intersection. Police had to use an armored vehicle to rescue him. He was taken to a hospital, but Flynn said his life was not in danger.

Smith's death was just the latest in a string of shootings involving police and black men to spark demonstrations and protests.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was fatally shot in July during a struggle with two white police officers, protests largely dissipated after three law enforcement officers were killed in a shooting attack that appeared to target police. Demonstrations also unfolded after 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, during a traffic stop by a Latino police officer. Those protests dwindled in the ensuing weeks.

Last year, the state Justice Department agreed to review Milwaukee police procedures after a white officer shot Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, in a downtown park during a scuffle.

DeShawn Corprue, 31, who lives behind the burned-out BP station, said nothing that police released about Smith's death would have stopped the weekend's unrest.

"People are just so angry," he said.

Flynn blamed a Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party for coming to town and inciting Sunday's violence.

"There is ample opportunity for second-guessing, I'm sure," Flynn said.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Terminally ill woman holds party before ending her life

Terminally ill woman holds party before ending her life

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- In early July, Betsy Davis emailed her closest friends and relatives to invite them to a two-day party, telling them: "These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness."

And just one rule: No crying in front of her.

The 41-year-old artist with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, held the gathering to say goodbye before becoming one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state's new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.

"For me and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that we would be there for her," said Niels Alpert, a cinematographer from New York City.

"The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in their suicide - that is not a normal thing, not a normal, everyday occurrence. In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming."

Davis worked out a detailed schedule for the gathering on the weekend of July 23-24, including the precise hour she planned to slip into a coma, and shared her plans with her guests in the invitation.

More than 30 people came to the party at a home with a wraparound porch in the picturesque Southern California mountain town of Ojai, flying in from New York, Chicago and across California.

One woman brought a cello. A man played a harmonica. There were cocktails, pizza from her favorite local joint, and a screening in her room of one of her favorite movies, "The Dance of Reality," based on the life of a Chilean film director.

As the weekend drew to a close, her friends kissed her goodbye, gathered for a photo and left, and Davis was wheeled out to a canopy bed on a hillside, where she took a combination of morphine, pentobarbital and chloral hydrate prescribed by her doctor.

Kelly Davis said she loved her sister's idea for the gathering, which Betsy Davis referred to as a "rebirth."

"Obviously it was hard for me. It's still hard for me," said Davis, who wrote about it for the online news outlet Voice of San Diego. "The worst was needing to leave the room every now and then, because I would get choked up. But people got it. They understood how much she was suffering and that she was fine with her decision. They respected that. They knew she wanted it to be a joyous occasion."

Davis ended her life a little over a month after a California law giving the option to the terminally ill went into effect. Four other states allow doctor-assisted suicide, with Oregon the first in 1997.

Opponents of the law in lobbying against it before state legislators argued that hastening death was morally wrong, that it puts terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death by loved ones and could become a way out for people who are uninsured or fearful of high medical bills.

Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, said her heart goes out to anyone dealing with a terminal illness, but "there are still millions of people in California threatened by the danger of this law."

Davis spent months planning her exit, feeling empowered after spending the last three years losing control of her body bit by bit. The painter and performance artist could no longer stand, brush her teeth or scratch an itch. Her caretakers had to translate her slurred speech for others.

"Dear rebirth participants you're all very brave for sending me off on my journey," she wrote in her invitation. "There are no rules. Wear what you want, speak your mind, dance, hop, chant, sing, pray, but do not cry in front of me. OK, one rule."

During the party, old friends reconnected and Davis rolled in and out of the rooms in her electric wheelchair and onto the porch, talking with her guests.

At one point, she invited friends to her room to try on the clothes she had picked out for them. They modeled the outfits to laughter. Guests were also invited to take a "Betsy souvenir" - a painting, beauty product or other memento. Her sister had placed sticky notes on the items, explaining each one's significance.

Wearing a Japanese kimono she bought on a bucket-list trip she took after being diagnosed in 2013, she looked out at her last sunset and took the drugs at 6:45 p.m. with her caretaker, her doctor, her massage therapist and her sister by her side. Four hours later, she died.

Friends said it was the final performance for the artist, who once drew pictures on a stage with whipped cream.

"What Betsy did gave her the most beautiful death that any person could ever wish for," Alpert said. "By taking charge, she turned her departure into a work of art."

Her guests agreed to meet again on her birthday in June to scatter her ashes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Putin, Erdogan agree on steps to mend relations

Putin, Erdogan agree on steps to mend relations

AP Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Konstantin palace outside St.Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. President Erdogan travels to Russia to meet with President Putin for the first time since apologizing in late June for the downing of a Russian fighter jet along the Syrian border in November last year.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- Turkey's president cozied up to his "dear friend" Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in a visit intended to send a message to his allies in the West, whom he blames for what he considers a lack of support after a failed coup.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pressed the United States to extradite the man he claims was behind the failed insurrection, and has sought more funds and visa-free travel from the European Union, but it's unclear what leverage improved ties with Russia could give him.

Putin, in turn, expects Turkey to become more accommodating of Russia's interests in Syria and move faster on major energy projects - demands Ankara could find difficult to meet.

After their talks in St. Petersburg's ornate Konstantin Palace, both leaders emphasized their shared desire to rebuild ties, but it remained unclear if they could reach common ground on the Syrian crisis. While Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nation's civil war and further bolstered that support by launching an air campaign last September, Turkey has pushed for Assad's removal and helped his foes.

Putin said he and Erdogan would have a separate discussion on Syria later Tuesday involving top diplomats and intelligence officials.

Repeatedly calling Putin his "dear friend," Erdogan refrained from mentioning any sticking points after the talks, saying he expects ties to fully blossom again soon. He said Turkey is ready to implement a natural gas pipeline project proposed by Moscow and a deal for Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant.

Both projects were announced years earlier, but had been held back by commercial disputes even before Turkey's downing of a Russian jet at the Syrian border last November.

The shoot-down, which Putin called a "treacherous stab in the back," brought relations to a freezing point where they remained for seven months until Erdogan apologized to Russia in June. Putin responded by ordering his government to start rebuilding ties with Turkey, and when Erdogan faced the botched coup attempt on July 15 the Russian leader quickly offered his support.

Erdogan emphasized that pledge of support, saying "it was very important for us psychologically. It offered us moral support and showed Russia's solidarity with Turkey."

While Putin also spoke of rebuilding ties, he sounded more cautious, warning that it will take time to fully restore them.

Moscow has accused the Turkish government of turning a blind eye to the flow of weapons and supplies to the Islamic State group and other extremists in Syria. While the Kremlin has tempered its rhetoric amid the rapprochement, Putin will most certainly push Erdogan to cut support for the rebels engaged in a fierce battle with Assad's forces in Aleppo.

Moscow could use economic levers to force Turkey to compromise on Syria. Turkey badly needs the flow of Russian tourists to resume, and Turkish farmers, construction companies and other businesses badly need to regain access to the Russian market, which has been shut to them after the plane's downing.

Putin said Tuesday that charter flights to Turkey could resume "in the near future," but added that "painstaking work is ahead to revive trade and economic cooperation."

"This process has been launched, but it will take some time," the Russian leader said.

While ties with Russia can't substitute Turkey's economic and security cooperation with the U.S. and the EU and its membership in NATO, Erdogan clearly hopes to use the Russia card to strengthen his hand in disputes with his Western partners.

Turkey has pressed the United States hard to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric the government blames for the failed coup. Gulen has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The dispute has strained U.S.-Turkish ties, with some Turkish officials implying Washington could have been behind the coup. The Obama administration has strongly denied that.

Speaking after the talks with Putin, Erdogan reiterated his contention that Gulen was behind the failed insurrection and alleged that the coup plotters were also responsible for the crisis in relations with Russia. He didn't touch on Ankara's demand for Gulen's extradition.

The failed coup saw renegade Turkish military officers using jets, helicopters and tanks try to take power in a night of violence that left more than 270 people dead. Since then, about 18,000 people have been detained or arrested and nearly 70,000 others suspected of links to Gulen have been suspended or dismissed from the civil service, judiciary, education, health care and the military.

Turkish officials have fumed at expressions of concern over the sweeping crackdown from European officials and rights groups, and accused the West of failing to show support for a democratically elected government. 

Ankara also lashed out at the EU for failing to uphold its end of an EU-Turkey agreement on migration.

The deal, struck in March, helped stem the flow of migrants from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands in exchange for an EU pledge of funds and visa-free travel for Turks. But plans to ease visa rules have run into trouble and Erdogan accused the EU earlier this month of failing to deliver the promised funds.

In contrast with his criticism of the U.S. and the EU, Erdogan heaped praise on Putin for offering support after the coup, saying: "We are strongly determined to take our relations to the pre-crisis and even higher level."

Putin responded in kind, saying that "higher interests of our peoples, our nations require the restoration of our ties."

Monday, August 8, 2016

Man charged with fatal shooting after 'hoodlums' complaint

Man charged with fatal shooting after 'hoodlums' complaint

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A white man who apparently called police to complain about "hoodlums" near his house was charged with murder after he shot and killed a black man outside, authorities said.

The shooting happened early Sunday morning when 39-year-old Chad Cameron Copley fired a shotgun from inside his garage and hit the victim, according to a Raleigh Police Department news release. He was arrested hours later, and jail records show the suspect was being held on a murder charge.

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, suffered a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at a hospital. 

Police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan said Thomas was black.

A male relative who answered the phone Monday at a listing for members of the victim's family said they weren't doing well.

"We're broken apart torn apart, not doing well. Trying to get our lives back on track the way it was but it's hard. We lost somebody very special to us," said the man, who hung up before giving his name.

Police released an audio recording of a 911 call that came in shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday in which a male caller tells a dispatcher that he's "locked and loaded" and preparing to go outside. Saying there are people outside with guns, he tells the dispatcher he is on neighborhood watch and asks them to send police.

"We've got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing," he says. "I am locked and loaded. I'm going outside to secure my neighborhood."

The dispatcher then attempts to get a numeric address for the caller, but he declines and hangs up.

About seven minutes later, an upset female caller gives the dispatcher an address that authorities would later identify as Copley's house. The dispatcher asks what happened.

"I don't know. I'm upstairs with our children," the female caller says.

She then gives the phone to what sounds like the same male caller from earlier.

"We have a lot of people outside of our house yelling and shouting profanity. I yelled at them 'please leave the premises.' They were showing firearms so I fired a warning shot," he says. "And, uh, we got somebody that got hit."

After the dispatcher asks if someone was shot, the male caller responds: "I don't know if they're shot or not. 

I fired my warning shot like I'm supposed to by law. ... They do have firearms and I'm trying to protect myself and my family."

After the dispatcher asks who was outside, the caller says: "There's black males outside my freaking house with firearms."

Hourigan said state law prohibits the police from releasing the identity of emergency callers.

Copley lives in a subdivision in the northeastern stretches of the city where tidy two-story homes sit on tree-shaded lots. The surrounding Census tract is about 60 percent white and almost 30 percent black, with a median household income of about $76,000 - well above the state as a whole, according to 2014 Census estimates.

The news release says Thomas was among people who were outside of Copley's home, but Hourigan declined to elaborate on where he was when he was shot.

Two people who called 911 tell the dispatcher that the shots came from inside the house, with one giving the address for Copley.

"Someone just got shot," one of the callers says. "Someone shot him out of his house."

A dispatcher tells another caller not to move the victim as commotion and profanity can be heard in the background.

"Tell him help's already on the way," the dispatcher says.

Police announced Copley's arrest on a murder charge Sunday afternoon.

Copley appeared before a judge during a short hearing Monday, and he was denied bail. The Capital Defender's Office said it hadn't assigned an attorney to Copley's case as of Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Official Press Release Philadelphia, PA USA -Editor and Publisher, Van Stone Downing, Philadelphia Front Page News Publicly Supports Coalition Affiliated With Black Lives Matter Movement

Official Press Release Philadelphia, PA USA -Editor and Publisher, Van Stone Downing, Philadelphia Front Page News Publicly Supports Coalition Affiliated With Black Lives Matter Movement

Black Lives Matter Coalition

 From the Editor and Publisher of the Philadelphia Front Page News Newspaper:

Dear faithful readers,

The Philadelphia Front Page News Newspaper and publications affiliated with the news and media journal is known for its fair and credible news reporting. Reporting on history of race and politics in the United States of America has been a very important part of writing by the paper.

I, Samuel Van Stone Downing, a Black man, whose maternal grandmother was a White Woman with beginnings from the South to North, (grandma lived almost to the age of 100), maternal grandpa was a Delaware Indian with beginnings in the North, (grandpa life was cut short by means of murder and law enforcement) have a wonderful opportunity to understand true history of slavery, racism, and oppression first hand from maternal stories and my very own eye witness accounts during the early 60’s to early 70’s in America.

Facts in America reveal that regardless if a person is White, Black, or Whites and Blacks against racism each racial mix suffered.

Black men have been the first responders to achievement for Black Pride in America followed by Black women.

Highest legal government in the United States have promoted false propaganda that Black men will always abandon their own children if isolation takes place upon the Black man.

Truth is... Black men, good Black men have never abandon their own children and will reach to each and every one of the Black boys and girls that have no proper parent and teach every one until there are no parentless child left in the neighborhood or city.

Women, particularly both White and Black, depend on Black men to help lead the way to success in family and financial stability despite the false propaganda spread about good Black men in America.

Both Indigenous Americans, African Americans

White women and their children have been long victims to cruelly and abandonment the result has been wandering White children.

To get rid of the man or woman because of the color of the skin would be done by any illegal means necessary.

Many men and women alone and a few women and men all together took steps to survive among the government by any legal means necessary. 

Indian Chiefs, Gangsters, and Black Leaders, have been renegades and anti-heroes in the battle for every man or every woman confronted by the skin color hater to rise and also get to safety.

Many many days and nights, Black men have come to the rescue as unknown heroes in America. The women and children never forgetting the plight of the Black race.

Blacks in America suffered by means of cruel design.  And financial and economic trickery was and still is used to keep Black Peoples extremely poor, wrongfully imprisoned.

And then Blacks in America, especially targeting the Black Fathers, are broken- entire generation of Black family is broken.

And the Black family divided is keep from the Black family reunification.
The highest court, judges appointed in the highest court of law, and the politically elected professionals practiced decision making to use Blacks to build America, refuse to pay Blacks to build America, and help prevent Blacks from finding jobs in America.

Black (Black Indian) Americans

What’s even worse is that when many White Americans working in the highest level possible to right the wrong, made their promises to pay out money and land to Blacks Peoples-easily proven to be in fact first American Blacks- where ever the Black American would go, whatever the Black American would do with family, (husbands, wives, children, relatives, including peoples of color being both Indigenous Americans, Black Americans, African Americans, and European-Black Americans as well as White persons willingly in relationships with Black Peoples),

-the highest existing power of government has denied the promise of pay out to Black men and women.

False history was created and told by the leadership of the highest existing power of government so America, the land of the free and the home of the brave would never mean that American Blacks will ever receive partial or full reparations.

In 2016 -a 6 million dollar reparation governmental stimulus package that is meant only for Black Americans (starting with the male Black American) and it passing every branch and piece of American highest level government should be done.

6 million dollars has been approved by the highest American Governmental leadership to be handed out to another system of government based on parliamentary democracy. Meanwhile by comparison Black America could easily set aside 6 million dollars usage to restore peaceful interest here in America and rethink Black History in America.

There is enough money in the pockets of financially stable African Americans to do Americas' own 6 million dollars reparations

However, little today changes because the stable African Americans argue among themselves what is a Black Leader?

Therefore, the Black Lives Matter movement can grow stronger in the effort for justice for all.

The Black Lives Matter Coalition presents similar views for social and civic studies now in 2016 America development.

Black American Women

 Black on Black crime would dwindle.  White on Black crime would dwindle.  Bad Police Crime on Black would dwindle.  And racism would be more difficult to get away with in the courts, and in the streets.

The article on Anti-Racism (“U.S. slavery reparations sought in first Black Lives Matter agenda,” 08-02-16 by Eric M. Johnson, Reuters) and the Black Lives Matter call for “reparations for slavery in the United States among other demands in its first policy platform is accurate.

Black Indians and Native Americans 

It is necessary to provide full reparations to Black Americans and African Americans in every neighborhood, town, township, borough, country, city and state from the 1916’s to the 2016’s.

Sincerely, Van Stone

Friday, July 29, 2016

Court blocks 'discriminatory' North Carolina voter ID law

Court blocks 'discriminatory' North Carolina voter ID law

AP Photo
File-This June 21, 2016, file photo shows North Carolina NAACP president, Rev. William Barber, center at podium gesturing during a news conference in Richmond, Va. A federal appeals court on Friday, July 29, 2016, blocked a North Carolina law that required voters to produce photo identification and follow other rules disproportionately affecting minorities, finding that the law was intended to make it harder for blacks to vote in the presidential battleground state. Rev. Barber, said in an interview that the ruling was a powerful victory for civil rights and for democracy
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Friday blocked a North Carolina law that required voters to produce photo identification and follow other rules disproportionately affecting minorities, finding that the law was intended to make it harder for blacks to vote in the presidential battleground state.

The Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared that the measures violated the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act by targeting black voters "with almost surgical precision." It marks the third ruling in less than two weeks against voter ID laws after court decisions regarding Texas and Wisconsin.

Friday's opinion from a three-judge panel states that "the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history" when it rewrote voting laws in 2013.

The appeals court also dismissed arguments by Republican lawmakers that the law was aimed at preventing voter fraud.

"Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist," the opinion states.

Opponents of the law say the ruling should increase participation by black and Hispanic voters on Election Day in the state that also has closely contested races for U.S. Senate and governor. The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP and League of Women Voters were among those who sued over the restrictions.

"This is a strong rebuke to what the North Carolina General Assembly did in 2013. It's a powerful precedent that ... federal courts will protect voting rights of voters of color," said Allison Riggs, who served as the League of Women Voters' lead lawyer.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said the ruling was "a vindication of our constitutional and moral critique and challenge to the constitutional extremism of our government."

The decision was lauded by Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but decried by Republicans including Gov. Pat McCrory as an effort to tilt the electoral balance in the November elections.

North Carolina legislative leaders Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, issued a statement that they would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and blasted the judges as "three partisan Democrats."

"We can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians ... to steal the election," they said.

All three panel members were appointed by Democratic presidents.

However, it's unlikely that the evenly divided and short-handed Supreme Court would take the case or block Friday's ruling from governing elections this November, said election-law experts Ned Foley of Ohio State University and Richard Hasen of the University of California at Irvine.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas' strict voter ID law is discriminatory and must be weakened by November. That followed a ruling by a federal judge in Wisconsin that residents without a photo ID will still be allowed to vote.

Hasen said the Obama administration took on the North Carolina and Texas cases as a bulwark against voting restrictions.

"If North Carolina and Texas could get away with these voting restrictions, it would have been a green light for other states to do so," he said. "I think this is a hugely important decision."

North Carolina's voting laws were rewritten in 2013 by the General Assembly two years after Republicans took control of both legislative chambers for the first time in a century. It was also shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling changed the requirement that many Southern states receive federal approval before changing voting laws.

The voter ID mandate, which took effect in March, required people casting ballots in person to show one of six qualifying IDs, although voters facing "reasonable impediments" could fill out a form and cast a provisional ballot.

North Carolina legislators imposed the photo ID requirement, curtailed early voting and eliminated same-day registration and voters' ability to cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots in their home counties.

The appeals court cited data that these methods were used disproportionately by black voters, who also were more likely to lack a qualifying ID, and it blocked the contested provisions of the law.

The judges wrote that in the years before the North Carolina law took effect, registration and participation by black voters had been dramatically increasing.

"We recognize that elections have consequences, but winning an election does not empower anyone in any party to engage in purposeful racial discrimination," the panel said.

The Rev. Moses Colbert, a 61-year-old pastor at a church in Gastonia, said the elimination of same-day registration ensured that he couldn't vote on Election Day 2014 shortly after moving within North Carolina. 

He'd sought to change his voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but the update didn't get to county officials by the election.

He was told his name wasn't on the rolls where he'd just moved. But when he drove 20 miles back to the county where he was registered before, election workers turned him away because of the new address on his license.

"I was stunned. I'm only two generations away from slavery," said Colbert, who is black. "This is a privilege every American needs to be allowed to exercise."

Donald Trump speech beats Hillary Clinton in TV viewership

Donald Trump speech beats Hillary Clinton in TV viewership

AP Photo
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Thursday, July 28, 2016, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump pulled off the upset - at least in television popularity.

Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by 29.8 million people on the commercial networks, the Nielsen company said Friday. That fell short of the 32.2 million people who watched Trump speak to the Republicans a week before.

Trump, who used to carefully watch television ratings during his days as star of "The Apprentice," immediately boasted about the victory during a campaign appearance Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"We beat her by millions on television. Millions!" he said. "Honestly, the numbers were incredible."

Although Trump has been a proven ratings draw throughout his campaign, the Democratic convention had proven more popular with viewers than the Republicans for its first three nights. Stars like Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Paul Simon performed for the Democrats, and President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton showed off their oratorical skills.

Meanwhile, star power was much dimmer at the Republican meeting. One night, the convention even ended 15 minutes earlier than planned, leaving television networks scrambling to fill time.

But viewers turned up to hear Trump: his audience was watched by 9 million more people than it was for any other night of the Republican convention, Nielsen said. Meanwhile, the Democrats actually had slightly more viewers for the first night of its convention than it did for the nominee's speech, typically the highest-rated night of convention coverage.

Four years ago, the audience for Obama's acceptance speech was 35.7 million, while 30.2 million saw Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Nielsen's count did not include PBS' commercial-free coverage, which made the margin closer. PBS said its viewership for Clinton's speech was 3.91 million people, and 2.75 million the week earlier for Trump.

Fox News Channel went from first to worst during a tumultuous two weeks that included the resignation of its chief executive, Roger Ailes, on the day Trump spoke. An estimated 9.4 million people watched Trump on Fox, the most popular network for Republicans, and Fox took out newspaper ads touting its first-place finish among those covering the convention.

Just over 3 million people watched Clinton on Fox. Perhaps sensing its audience's level of interest, Fox showed fewer live events from the convention floor than its rivals, preferring discussions hosted by anchors Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Sean Hannity was brought in for analysis immediately after the convention closed each night.

Meanwhile, it was a coup for CNN, whose 7.51 million viewers topped all of the networks Thursday by a comfortable margin. This convention marked the first time the cable network beat the broadcasters in head-to-head competition. The relatively newsy events appeared to benefit the networks that followed them throughout the prime time hours, as opposed to ABC, CBS and NBC, which came on at 10 p.m. ET each night.

MSNBC was seen by 5.27 million, NBC had 4.52 million, ABC had 3.85 million and CBS had 3.65 million, Nielsen said. It was measuring the time all of the networks competed head-to-head, from 10 p.m. until the convention's close.

For politicians, the true measure of the speech's effectiveness will come in about a week, when polls indicate whether or not the convention gave Clinton a bump in popularity.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

AP EXPLAINS: Long history of women running for president

AP EXPLAINS: Long history of women running for president

AP Photo
California delegates hold up signs as they cheer for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 28, 2016.
It's been read, written and said countless times in the last few days: Hillary Clinton is the first woman to claim a major party's presidential nomination.

But why that "major" qualifier?

No woman has been this close to the Oval Office before, right?

The background:
According to Smithsonian historians, the number exceeds 200, a list that comprises nominees of many minor parties, and includes candidates who ran for president before women won the right to vote in 1920.

The list includes recent names like Jill Stein, this year's Green Party candidate who ran under the same label in 2012; Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972; then-Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Republican candidate in 2012; and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, a Democratic hopeful in 2004.

A women's rights crusader in the latter half of the 19th century, Victoria Woodhull is generally cited as the first woman to seek the presidency as the nominee of a political party.

But Woodhull's place in history comes with its own caveat.

Woodhull announced her candidacy publicly in an April 2, 1870, letter to the New York Herald. As recorded by Smithsonian Magazine, she wrote that she expected "more ridicule than enthusiasm" but "what may appear absurd today will assume a serious aspect tomorrow."

She went on to win the 1872 nomination of the Equal Rights Party (one of several organizations to claim that name in the era). But the Equal Rights Party didn't achieve ballot access in any state in 1872, so there are no recorded votes for Woohdull.

Further, she still would have been shy of 35 years old on Inauguration Day, making her ineligible to serve.
A decade after Woodhull, suffragist Belva Ann Lockwood twice ran with the nomination of the National Equal Rights Part in 1884 and 1888.

Her May 20, 1917, obituary in The New York Times described her as "the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court, a pioneer in the woman suffrage movement, and the only woman who was ever a candidate for President of the United States."

Most tallies of the popular vote do not list Lockwood, though various historians record her as having garnered about 4,100 votes across six states that allowed her name on the ballot in 1884.

Woodhull's story has proliferated in recent weeks on social media, often circulated by conservatives - or perhaps aggrieved Bernie Sanders backers - seeking to cast doubt on Clinton's place in history.

It's certainly a reminder that vocal, even if small minor party movements have helped shape American politics and policy.

But let's be clear: The U.S. government has long revolved around a two-party system. The last time a third-party or independent presidential candidate garnered a single Electoral College vote was George Wallace in 1968, and he was the former governor of Alabama, elected as a Democrat. Not even Ross Perot managed an electoral vote in 1992 or 1996, despite millions of popular votes.

No, presidents come from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. And for the first time, one of those two great, enduring organizations has chosen a woman as its standard-bearer.

Surely Victoria Woodhull and Belva Ann Lockwood would agree on the historic nature of such an occasion.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mom of slain Florida teen warned son of nightclub shootings

Mom of slain Florida teen warned son of nightclub shootings

AP Photo
A police vehicle blocks off the area near Club Blu after a fatal shooting in Fort Myers, Fla., Monday, July 25, 2016.
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- With the Orlando massacre still fresh on everyone's mind, the mother of a young man who was slain at a nightclub early Monday had warned her son about what to do if there were a shooting: "hit the floor, find a table."

But when gunfire erupted at the Club Blu parking lot, 18-year-old Stef'an Strawder didn't have anywhere to hide. He was killed along with a 14-year-old boy, and 17 other people ranging in age from 12 to 27 were wounded during a swimsuit-themed party for teens.

"I told him to look for all the exits if any kind of shooting would go off, to hit the floor, find a table and get out of the way ... because I thought about the people in Orlando. That was a big thing," Strawder's mother, Stephanie White, told The Associated Press.

Since the shooting happened in the parking lot, "He didn't have that chance," she said.

Florida is again reeling from a mass shooting at a nightclub, but instead of being committed by a terrorist spouting Islamist ideology, this rampage may have started with an argument over a rap performance. Police have not yet released a motive.

The shooting at a venue tucked in a strip mall also left 14-year-old Sean Archilles dead, and a state and its governor grappling with another tragedy. The massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub last month killed 49 and wounded dozens of others.

"The positive is we are at a 45-year low in our crime rate. The negatives - I can't imagine this happening to any person in our state. 

I don't want this to happen to anybody in my state. The 20 million people who live here, the probably 150 million people who visit here. We just want everybody to be safe," Gov. Rick Scott 
told reporters at a news conference in Fort Myers.

He said gun laws are not to blame. "The Second Amendment has never shot anybody. The evil did this."

Fort Myers interim Police Chief Dennis Eads said the shooting was not an act of terror. 

Police detained three people and were searching for others, he added. He declined to give a motive for the shooting or discuss details, saying the investigation is ongoing. 

Hours after the shooting, police had marked more than two dozen shell casings in the parking lot outside the club.

The shooting happened about 12:30 a.m. Monday, just as the club was closing and parents were picking up their children.

Security guard Brandy Mclaughlin, who was hired for the event, said she saw someone with a semi-automatic rifle open fire, with the attack sounding like "firecrackers." Her car was hit in the spray of bullets.

"The rapper was upset, someone not being able to perform," she said. "It wasn't targeted, terrorist or gays, or anything like that. It wasn't a black or white situation. It was an idiot. An idiot with a firearm."

Club owner Cheryl Filardi, who said she was in the back room when the shots rang out, said at least 10 security guards were hired for the party - two in the parking lot, one or two at the door and the rest floating inside.

She said the club has had four or five teen parties over the past half-dozen years, and this was the second one this summer. She said the parties are something positive for a rough and often-violent neighborhood.

"To be honest with you, every day someone's getting shot in this area. These days in Lee County, somebody's always shooting," Filardi said. "If we do teen parties, we always have a ton of security and we've never had a problem."

While beer posters still hung in its windows, Club Blu's alcohol license was revoked June 7 because of an incident that occurred a year ago, according to records from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. 

The same records show that a complaint was filed in 2014 for "criminal activity" and that the club was given an official notice. Further details were not available.

There were bullet holes in concrete planters and wooden support beams outside the club. Sheriff's evidence markers were still affixed to the holes. The letter "A'' was attached near a post, while nearby "L," ''M," ''N" and "O'' were marked near a planter filled with scraggly foliage.

The youngest to die, Archilles, lived about a mile from the nightclub, and loved to play football and basketball, said his father, Jean Archilles.

"He liked to make people laugh. He's a funny kid. He's always joking," Jean Archilles said.

Strawder starred on the Lehigh High School basketball team, averaging more than 15 points a game as a junior.

His sister also was at the party and was shot in the leg. She's home from the hospital.

"She didn't know she was shot because she was looking for her brother."

All around the home in the Fort Myers suburb of Lehigh Acres were testaments to Strawder's athletic ability. 
From the baby photo of him with a football on his lap - a ball nearly as big as he was - to the photos of him over the years on the court, to the dozens of trophies lining the cabinets, it was clear that his family adored him and his abilities.

He was the kind of guy who, even if he didn't have much money, he'd pay for meals for teammates, his mother said.

White clutched photos of her son while sitting in a chair in her home. The television was on, loud, and turned to the local news. A story came on about the shootings.

"My son," said White, waving a hand at the television. "There's another picture of him."

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