Day: June 15, 2017

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VIDEO: Dem official curses, accosts gay signature gatherers on Pride weekend


A local Democratic Party official was caught on videotape verbally accosting signature gatherers in California during Pride weekend with a torrent of curse words and demanding to know, “Which one of you —holes is the gay?”

The official, Jeff LeTourneau, followed up by saying, “You are a f—ing disgrace to any gay person I know, you piece of s—.” 

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The exchange occurred in the parking lot of a Fullerton, Calif., Walmart where LeTourneau, a Vice-Chair with the Democratic Party of Orange County who is gay, discovered that gay volunteers were helping a grassroots group collect signatures to unseat Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman. The effort is in response to a gas tax hike that recently passed the Legislature along party lines.

“LeTourneau clearly thinks that if you are gay, you can only be a Democrat which is both arrogant and highly offensive,” said Carl DeMaio, a gay former San Diego city councilmember and former GOP congressional candidate who can be heard on the video trying to calm down LeTourneau. “The idea that Californians are sick of paying higher taxes cuts across party lines and sexual orientation.”

DeMaio is a conservative talk radio host and founder of Reform California, a PAC that has sparked pension reform and defeated a dozen tax increases. Reform California is fronting the Newman recall.

LeTourneau, Newman, and Democratic Party of Orange County Chair Fran Sdao did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. California Democratic Party spokesperson John Vigna referred Fox News to the Democratic Party of Orange County.

The chain of events began when a pro-Newman worker showed up onsite Saturday to discourage voters from signing and was told by recall volunteers that a few of them were LGBT, DeMaio said. An hour later, LeTourneau arrived and confronted them, the video shows.

“I’m here as an openly gay person on Pride weekend seeing these two people disgracing my community and letting them know I don’t care about them. They’re liars! They’re liars!” LeTourneau said.

He added: “You do not belong to our community.  You also do not belong to the LGBTQ community either.”

In the wake of Wednesday’s shooting outside Washington at a congressional baseball practice, a number of lawmakers have voiced concern about coarsening political rhetoric — in the media, at town halls and in other settings. The incident in California occurred days earlier. 

Much of the official’s ire was directed at the Republican Party, which he claimed wrote the “destruction” of the LGBTQ community into its “platform.”

Throughout the exchange, DeMaio and the publisher of a gay news site could be heard trying to placate LeTourneau with phrases like “Don’t be hateful” and “Don’t be so angry.”

At one point, LeTourneau got into an exchange with a shopper who approached the petition table and criticized the Vice-Chair for blocking access. She asked him to move. 

“I don’t need to step away, are you kidding me?” he said. “I’m not stepping away.”

Then a Walmart manager who just arrived on the scene said, “Does she have a democratic right to sign this petition? Why should she be badgered by you?”

The shopper finished signing and walked away yelling to LeTourneau: “Crazy! You’ve got nothing else to do!”

Tori Richards is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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Al Capone letter goes up for auction, but rumors swirl that it was stolen from court


This letter is a steal. Perhaps literally.

The winning bidder of a signed Al Capone legal document up for auction this week in Boston may be taking home a piece of true-crime history — but also possibly an actual piece of a crime scene.

The document – signed around 1930 by the infamous gangster amid allegations that he ran an illegal liquor house in Miami – is believed to have been swiped from the original courthouse files in South Florida.

More on this…

R.R. Auction, the company running the “Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen” auction that features items owned by famed hoodlums like Bugsy Siegel, Whitey Bulger and Bonnie and Clyde along with Capone – has not identified the private seller of the document, but says the letter is legitimate.

As for its shadowy history…

“We know that multiple copies of court documents are produced and get into private hands,” Bobby Livingston, the auction house’s executive vice president, told the Miami Herald. “It’s not uncommon.”

The Miami Herald reviewed the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts archive earlier this week and found no original or copies of Capone’s six page letter – a fact that proved worrisome to retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman.

“If this is an original document that was filed with the court, it needs to be back in a court file and preserved for future generations,” Silverman, who was previously the court system’s historian, told the Florida newspaper.

For bidders not comfortable with spending their money on such a “hot” item, the auction will also be putting on the block a subpoena from the 1930 perjury prosecution of Capone, his diamond-studded pocket watch, sheet music penned by the man nicknamed “Scarface” and other trinkets from his Chicago home.



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New Orleans July 4th boat parade canceled because of Trump's election, founder says


A popular annual July 4th parade of boats in New Orleans has been canceled this year — and the founder of the parade is blaming the 2016 election.

“When I think about wearing my flag dress and waving flags; I don’t know what it means this year,” Katrina Brees told The Times-Picayune. “There are a lot of questions about our government.”

The July 4th Flotilla paraded around Bayou St. John every year since 2012, but Brees said her “heart is just not in it this year.” The anti-Trump humor in Mardi Gras parades this year didn’t seem to lift her spirits.

DETECTIVE WON’T FACE CHARGES IN FATAL JULY 4TH SHOOTING

She also was concerned about the large crowds, garbage, costume remnants, fireworks and boats left behind after the event. 

The parade was to feature a coronation of royalty in Krewe of Kolossos, a mobile spectacle that transforms trash into art. However, she noted that most people that attend the event aren’t affiliated with the krewe, The New Orleans Advocate reported. 

NEW ORLEANS ARRESTS AT CONFEDERATE MONUMENT

She said that due to the large volume of people attending the event, “it got really old picking up other people’s messes.”

Brees said that she is not pleased that the event is over, but she is relieved. She said she wouldn’t be opposed if someone wanted to carry on the tradition.



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Wallenda daredevil dangles over Niagara Falls by mouth, breaking record


Exactly 5 years after Nik Wallenda’s televised 1,800-foot tightrope walk from New York to Canada over Niagara Falls, his 36-year-old wife, Erendira, beat his record Thursday, hanging by her teeth from 300 feet in the air.

Nik Wallenda formerly held the record for highest suspension, after he hung from his mouth 250 feet about Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri in 2011.

Erendira spent eight of the 10-minute stunt hovering over the falls from a helicopter, after it took off from the parking lot roof of the nearby Seneca Niagara casino.

NIAGARA FALLS STUNT ANNOUNCED

Erendira described the experience as “beautiful and amazing” but said she was caught off guard by the strong winds. Her husband said he struggled through similar conditions during his 2012 stunt above the falls.

Only a few dozen people viewed the stunt from the American side, compared to the tens of thousands who gathered on both sides for Nik’s high-wire walk five years prior.

WALLENDAS HURT IN CIRCUS TIGHTROPE FALL

Erendira’s stunt was unanimously approved by the Niagara County Legislature earlier this year, and $35,000 was set aside for the event. In 2012, Nik’s walk generated an economic impact of $21.5 million and $3.3 million in direct revenues to the City of Niagara Falls, Fox News reported.

The city hoped Erendira’s stunt would generate attention as well. Majority Leader Randy R. Brandt said in May “we want to recapture that energy for our local economy”.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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Without immigration benefit, now more than 36K Cubans have deportation orders


Tens of thousands of Cubans living in the U.S. are adapting to a harsh new reality: After enjoying decades of favored status dating back to the Cold War, many of them now face the same deportation risks as any other immigrants.

They feel betrayed by former President Barack Obama’s administration, which in its waning days stripped away a nearly automatic path to citizenship that had been offered since the 1960s to Cubans who arrived on U.S. soil, even those who showed up without a visa. The change was part of a thaw in relations with Cuba, which also agreed to start accepting the return of more of its people who get deported.

OFFICIALS SEE ‘INFLUX’ OF CUBAN IMMIGRANTS AS LAWMAKERS EYE IMMIGRATION CHANGE

Now some Cubans have been detained at routine appointments with immigration officials, and many more fear they could be imperiled by old deportation orders or caught up in the increased arrests of non-citizens pursued by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“I wasn’t prepared for any of this. How could I have seen this coming?” said Maykel Vargas, a Cuban who spent three months in detention after immigration officials took him into custody when he was trying to renew a temporary document. “I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Anticipation is mounting about a White House announcement on Cuba planned for Friday and how it may affect business deals and leisure travel. But experts agree that Trump’s new policy is not expected to restore previous immigration privileges. Any changes open the possibility that the Cuban government could scale back commitments on migration agreements, including promises to take back deportees.

Vargas, 37, worked as an Uber and Lyft driver to provide for his sister, who is single and pregnant. He said he couldn’t afford the $700 required to apply for permanent residency, a much more complex process. He continues fighting deportation after being released Monday with an ankle monitor.

TRUMP MULLS US POLICY TOWARDS CUBA, MAY CURB OBAMA ‘DETENTE’ WITH ISLAND NATION

Hermes Vigoa, 46, wasn’t even nervous when he showed up at an immigration office in Miami earlier this year to renew a temporary document he needed for his driver’s license and car insurance while he completed the permanent-residency process.

He arrived in the U.S. two years before Obama canceled the fast-track citizenship system. Cubans still have a path to residency if they find a way to arrive in the U.S. with a visa, but Obama ended the open-arms treatment to curb a recent immigration surge mostly through the Mexico border.

“I thought everything was fine until an officer told me, ‘You are in limbo’ and told my girlfriend to take all my stuff because I was being detained,” Vigoa said. He was detained for a month before he was released, without explanation, to continue seeking a green card.

Immigration officials did not respond to requests for information on these cases.

Officials say more than 36,000 Cubans currently face deportation orders. About 29,000 are convicted criminals and 7,000 non-criminal immigration violators, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Two other Cubans who were taken into custody last month after being here for decades are getting the attention of elected officials. They arrived as children in the famous Mariel boatlift in 1980, when Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro allowed the departure of anyone who wanted to leave the Communist nation. About 125,000 “marielitos” crossed the Florida Straits that year.

Both men have criminal convictions but insist they have turned their lives around.

In 1984, the nations agreed on a list of 2,746 Cubans who were alleged criminals and could be returned to the island. When the U.S. abandoned the “wet foot, dry foot” policy in January, the two nations agreed that the list could be revised to add other Cuban “marielitos” who were subject to active deportation orders.

Rudy Blanco was 8 when he was brought from the port of Mariel by his parents in 1980. He now has a family and owns a home-remodeling business in Perry, Florida. But because he was convicted of attempting to sell cocaine in 1998, he wasn’t allowed to become a U.S. citizen and instead received an order of deportation by mail in 2005.

Blanco was allowed to stay as long as he made routine visits to ICE. However, he was arrested on May 9 and is now awaiting deportation. An ICE spokeswoman said only that the agency intends to deport him based on the 2005 order.

Blanco’s wife, Shelly, said that both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the family’s congressman, Rep. Neal Dunn, have told her they are trying to gather information on the case. Both men are Republicans.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pardoned another Cuban immigrant for an armed robbery committed 19 years ago, in an effort to stave off his deportation. Rene Lima-Marin, 38, arrived as a toddler in the boatlift and 20 years later received a deportation order after his conviction.

Apart from the Mariel list, Cuba has agreed to review deportations on a case-by-case basis. Fifty-seven Cubans have been deported since October, while 335 were arrested between Jan. 22 and April 29.

Susan Eckstein, a sociology professor at Boston University, argues that Cubans’ immigration privileges should end to make immigration policy more equitable for all foreign nationals.

“I would be very surprised if Trump changes Obama’s policy because it is so consistent with his stance on immigration in general,” she said.



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Dog leaves half of her food for companion who died


In case you needed more proof that dogs are some of the most loyal, loving creatures on the planet, here you go.

Actor and filmmaker Easton Dufur used to have two yellow Labradors — Cookie and Stitch.

The dogs had always shared one food bowl, Easton said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“My dog Stitch trained my other dog Cookie to only eat half the food that’s in the bowl. So ever since she was young she knew to leave half the food so Stitch can have some (he liked to make sure she would eat,)” Easton wrote.

DOG SNUCK INTO HOSPITAL AS FAKE BABY

Easton explained that Stitch recently passed away and Cookie is alone for the first time.

“So since Stitch is gone, I’ve been feeding Cookie less food,” Easton wrote.

POLICE OFFICER GIVES ‘PITY’ WARNING AFTER FINDING FUNNY NOTE

“Well before I went to bed, I wanted to check to see if she ate. And so I did, and she still left half of her food there so Stitch can eat,” Easton said.

Easton later shared a video of Cookie and Stitch enjoying a snack together during happier times.

This story first appeared on Fox 31 Denver.



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Freed ISIS child soldier recounts horrors of brutal training, years of torture


Akram was 7 years old when he learned how to behead a person. The lessons started with pictures that showed the way to decapitate an enemy. He then graduated from drawings to a town square, where he witnessed a real beheading. 

Akram, now 8, was a prisoner of ISIS for 2 ½ half years. In captivity, he underwent brutal training, including torture, as he learned to become a child soldier. 

Freed by Kurdish fighters two months ago, along with a younger brother and sister, he is now in a refugee camp 25 miles east of Duhok, a Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq. Their mother is still in captivity.

ISIS CHILD SOLDIERS ARE LATEST CASUALTIES OF BRUTAL TERRORIST ARMY

The nightmare began when Akram and his mother were shot while fleeing ISIS invaders. Akram was taken to the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, where doctors removed five bullets from his back. 

During his first three months in captivity, he was regularly beaten if he didn’t learn his lessons about Islam. He was forced to study Arabic in order to read the Koran. Akram is a Yazidi, a member of an ancient non-Muslim minority in Iraq. In 2014, ISIS attempted to massacre the Yazidis in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, charging that they are infidels who must be destroyed.

Jan Kizilhan, a 50-year-old German psychologist of Kurdish background, treats victims of ISIS torture. In a recent telephone interview, he spoke about Akram’s unimaginable childhood. Kizilhan said that Akram is often unable to sleep because of nightmares. He also beats his younger siblings, an expression of underlying anger at his brutal treatment in ISIS captivity.       

ISIS RELYING ON CHILD SOLDIERS, DRUGGED FIGHTERS AS GRIP ON MOSUL SLIPS

Kizilhan said Akram is already showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, an affliction of soldiers who fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kizilhan said he has to speak very slowly to Akram, and must frequently repeat things.

When interviewed by Kizilhan, Akram bites his nails. His eyes dart around the room, without making human contact.

The scrawny boy with close-cropped brown hair tells Kizilhan that his captors often threatened to cut off his hands. He then runs his fingers around his neck and says they also repeatedly warned him that they would decapitate him if he were defiant during weapons training. He has learned to fire a variety of weapons.

ISIS would only let Akram see his mother when he showed progress in becoming a good soldier. 

“He missed her and didn’t think he could survive without her,” said Kizilhan. “This was how they controlled him.”

HEAD GAMES? ISIS TOUTS CHEMICAL WEAPONS ATTACKS, BUT IRAQIS, US PLAY IT DOWN

The first step toward helping Akram is to build trust, said Kizilhan, to show him that there is an alternate society where barbaric behavior is not the norm. Naji Hamo, a psychologist who is Kizilhan’s student, will undertake the effort to build this trust.

Kizilhan has brought more than 1,000 severely traumatized Yazidis to a treatment facility near Stuttgart in the German state of Baden Wurttenberg, which has allocated $107 million over three years to operate the treatment center.

Reflecting on the history of man’s cruelty, Kizilhan cited the Turkish massacre of the Armenians and the millions of Jews gassed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Then he spoke of the personal emotional toll he experiences when he witnesses the destruction of Akram’s childhood.

He recalls another tragic victim of ISIS, a mother who refused to convert to Islam and refused to learn Arabic, or read the Koran. ISIS punished her by placing her 2-year-old daughter in a black box in the torrid August heat. 

Despite the mother’s sobbing pleas, ISIS would not let the girl out of the box. On the seventh day, when the child was near death, the bearded ISIS guard broke her back in two places. She died two days later. The mother cried uncontrollably when she told Kizilhan this story.   

“I have to learn to distance myself from the Akrams of the world,” he said. “Otherwise I will not be able to treat him.”

How can people be so cruel? 

This is the question that Kizilhan asks himself, but he finds no answer.

Donald Snyder was a news producer at NBC for 27 years and has been a freelance writer since his retirement. He specializes in Germany and Eastern Europe.



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London high-rise fire: May orders public investigation as death toll rises to 17


British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday ordered a full public investigation into the London high-rise fire that killed at least 17 people, a toll that was likely to rise. 

May made her announcement after she toured the devastation. She earlier had promised a “proper investigation” to the cause of the fire. 

Forty-four households received emergency accommodation. Investigators said they did not expect to find anyone else alive after the blaze and that it was too early to speculate on how the inferno that engulfed the 24-floor building started.

“Tragically, now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive,” Cotton told Sky News. “The severity and the heat of the fire will mean that it will be an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive.”

JAMIE OLIVER OFFERS FREE FOOD AND SHELTER TO VICTIMS OF LONDON FIRE

There’s nothing to suggest the fire was terror-related, London police commander said. Specialist dogs will also be searching the 24-story building, according to Cotton. 

Cotton added that authorities have finally extinguished the last pockets of flame and are trying to secure edges of the building for a fingertip search. Sky News reported that some parts of the building were still too hot for firefighters to go in.

PHOTOS: MASSIVE BLAZE IN LONDON HIGH-RISE

More than 200 firefighters worked through the night and parts of the building were still seen as being unsafe. Now that the smoke has cleared, the public could only gape at the huge burned-out hulk in the working class, multi-ethnic neighborhood.

Cotton praised her crews for containing the blaze, but added they were left “traumatized” by the experience. She said firefighters witnessed people jumping and throwing their children out of the building.

Up to 600 people lived in 120 apartments in the Grenfell Tower.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also toured the area on Thursday and said “the truth has got to come out and will come out” on what happened. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said before that many questions must be answered about safety for the scores of other apartment buildings around the British capital.

LONDON TOWER FIRE: WHAT DO WE KNOW?

The London Fire Brigade said it received the first reports of the blaze at 12:54 a.m. and the first engines arrived within six minutes.

Survivors told of frantic attempts to escape during the nighttime fire.

“The flames, I have never seen anything like it. It just reminded me of 9/11,” said Muna Ali, 45. “The fire started on the upper floors. … Oh my goodness, it spread so quickly. It had completely spread within half an hour.”

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but a tenants’ group had complained for years about the risk of a fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Dos Equis guy has odd new job


The former “most interesting man in the world” has a brand new job … and maybe a bit of a drinking problem.

Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who gained fame as the original “most interesting man in the world” in ads for Dos Equis beer, is now lending his persona to a brand of tequila.

As reported by Ad Age, Goldsmith is now appearing in a short commercial for Astral Tequila, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to his old Dos Equis ads. Goldsmith is dressed in largely the same finery as he was seen sporting in his previous spots, and surrounded by beautiful women, just as he was in his Dos Equis days.

MCDONALD’S COMMERCIAL SPARKS SOCIAL MEDIA BACKLASH

To top it off, Goldsmith even paraphrases a famous line from his old campaigns.

“I told you, I don’t always drink beer,” Goldsmith says into the camera, cleverly referencing his old catchphrase (“I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis”).

It should be noted, however, that Astral Tequila is not owned by the same company as Dos Equis — Astral is owned by a company called Davos Brands; Dos Equis by Heineken USA — but a spokesperson for Astral claims the company did its due diligence before hiring Goldsmith.

“Astral Tequila has obliged by all trademark legal requirements,” an Astral representative told Ad Age.

MEXICO INVENTED A CLOUD THAT RAINS TEQUILA

Before making the jump to a harder brand of booze, Goldsmith originally served as Dos Equis’ “most interesting man” from 2006 to 2016. Over the course of dozens of television and radio commercials, Goldsmith (or an actor portraying Goldsmith as a younger “most interesting man”) would be shown adventuring, party-hopping, smooth-talking and holding court, all while a voice-over offered examples of his more fascinating attributes.

“His charm is so contagious, vaccines have been created for it,” one ad stated. “He lives vicariously through himself,” said another.

Most ads would end with Goldsmith delivering his signature line, but later ads also saw him deliver a secondary, yet equally catchy catchphrase: “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

Dos Equis retired Goldsmith from the role in 2016, but not before giving him one last commercial where he departed on a one-way trip to Mars.

Dos Equis replaced Goldsmith later that same year, with French actor Augustin Legrand.

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Despite Goldsmith’s new-yet-extremely-familiar gig, his former employers at Dos Equis have wished him well.

“We thank Jonathan Goldsmith for his long-time contributions to the brand, and wish him the best in his next endeavors,” a spokeswoman for Heineken USA told Ad Age.



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Report: Woman slips loaded gun into jail inside bra


A corrections officer found a loaded gun while patting down a woman in a Texas jail — after she apparently hid the weapon inside her bra.

The weapon seemed to slip past the routine pat-down at the Travis County Jail after the unnamed woman’s DWI arrest on May 29, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday. The female corrections officer discovered the loaded gun in the suspect’s bra.

This was not the first time Austin police recently missed a weapon on initial search. In January, 19-year-old Zachary Khabir Anam killed himself in the backseat of a cop car after being arrested for shoplifting at a local mall.

TEXAS WOMAN DIES WHILE SNORKELING IN FLORIDA KEYS

Records from the Travis County sheriff’s office showed that between 2013 and 2016, one gun, one stun gun, 40 knives and four razor blades went undetected until they were found by corrections officers, the Austin American-Statesman added.

Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley told the newspaper, “We have training and protocols to address the appropriate techniques of frisking and searching suspects. The dangers posed by missing a weapon on a suspect cannot be overstated.”

The department was investigating how the weapon initially went undetected. 



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