Friday, November 28, 2014

Bahamas Fend Off Critics Over New Migrant Rules

Youtchike Dormeus, 18, a repatriated Haitian, holds her one-year-old daughter Chemael Jean, as she is interviewed after landing at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.


NASSAU, BAHAMAS (AP) — On the first day new immigration rules took effect this month in the Bahamas, officers in green fatigues swept through poor sections of the capital filling two yellow school buses with dozens of people who couldn't document their right to be in the island chain.
The government, amid fierce criticism of the raid, later insisted the timing of the operation was coincidence. Still, the message of the surprise morning raid, in which the officers were accompanied by local media, couldn't be clearer: The Bahamas aims to become less hospitable to its swelling population of migrants lacking legal status.
"The fact is that illegal migration is a huge problem for us," Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said in a recent interview. "We spend enormous resources for it. It is a drain on our social services, health care and education and we need to get the matter under control."
The island chain of about 360,000 has a foreign-born population of more than 18 percent, according to an official report released last month. While the precise number of those who migrated illegally is unclear, the islands long have drawn migrants sailing from nearby Haiti. Census figures from 2010 show more than one out of 10 people in the Bahamas is Haitian, up from 3.6 percent in 1970.
Mitchell said haphazard enforcement of existing laws has put too many people in legal limbo and has made the Bahamas a magnet for migrants, arriving often in dangerously overloaded smuggling vessels. But the manner in which the Bahamas is carrying out this tightening of its borders is coming under criticism from human rights activists, who complain of arbitrary and heavy-handed enforcement that is sparking fear in the shantytowns where many migrants live.
"People are afraid to go to work," said Annette Martinez, a human rights lawyer documenting the situation with local activists. "They say 'We are afraid because at any moment the immigration officers will come or their bosses will identify them as foreigners.'"
Martinez also said conditions at the detention center where migrants are held are "appalling," with heavy crowding and poor access to adequate food, sanitation or medical care. The government says it's working to reduce the population in the detention center and sent two planeloads of migrants to Haiti on Wednesday. "In the Bahamas, they treat Haitians like dogs," Youtchike Dormeus, an 18-year-old deportee, said as she got off the plane in Port-au-Prince. The country, which denies treating anyone inhumanely, has deported 3,000 people this year.
Under the new rules that took effect Nov. 1, everyone must have the passport of their nationality and, if they are not a Bahamian, a valid residency or work stamp. In addition, the government is tightening the process for employers to receive work permits for non-Bahamians and requiring first-time applicants for residency permits to apply in their home countries.
Mitchell says the Bahamas briefed Haiti's government before the new rules took affect and was assured it could provide the passports and other documents needed by Haitians. He has defended the new policies in blunt terms. "You can't just jump off a boat with your wet feet and come into the immigration department and apply for a work permit," he told Parliament.
The new rules may be particularly tricky for people who were born in the Bahamas to people who migrated illegally. While the constitution allowed them to apply for Bahamian citizenship, many did not. Now, before they can seek legal status — a process that has no guaranteed outcome — they first will need to obtain passports from "home countries" they may never have seen. A similar situation has been playing out in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti and is attempting to regulate a much larger population of people lacking legal status.
Heleen Gelin, a 25-year-old Bahamian-born Haitian, has submitted her application for citizenship but says it has been a difficult process, with immigration officials giving conflicting information and she doesn't know if she will secure legal residency.
"I don't have anything right now," said Gelin, whose two children also lack legal status. Many without papers are too fearful to speak out against the changes, afraid they will be marked for deportation. Martinez, director of the Human Rights Clinic at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law, said the local activists with whom she conducts interviews did not want to be identified because of potential reprisals.
The situation in the Bahamas has brought condemnation from Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Daphne Campbell, a Florida state representative of Haitian descent, has called for a boycott of the Bahamas.
Government officials say the new restrictions remain popular among Bahamian citizens. "It's becoming a national security issue for us and for our neighbors and we have to do something about it," Mitchell said.
Associated Press writer Ben Fox reported from Miami.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

President's Pick Up The Check For Their Meals

President Barack Obama paying for his coffee and muffins at the Coffee Connection, Tuesday, in Knoxville, Iowa. There’s no free lunch, or breakfast or dinner, for the president on Thanksgiving day. Or any other day for that matter.


WASHINGTON (AP) — There's no free lunch — or breakfast or dinner — for President Barack Obama on Thanksgiving Day. Or any other day for that matter.
He has to dig into his pocket to pay for his holiday feast of turkey, ham, two kinds of stuffing, sweet and regular potatoes and six different kinds of pie. It's a longstanding practice that a president pays for meals for himself, his family and personal guests. Obama also pays for other basics — everything from toothpaste to dry cleaning.

WHY IS THAT?

Gary Walters, who was chief White House usher for many years, said the payment rule dates back to 1800 when the White House was first occupied by President John Adams and there was no staff. Presidents brought staff with them and paid for everything.
Congress gradually began spending money to maintain an official White House staff to oversee operations and maintenance, but presidents continued to pay for personal expenses.
What it boils down to, Walters said, is that the White House is first and foremost the president's home.
"All those things that are personal in nature that we all pay for, the first family pays for," he said.

WHAT IS EXLUDED?

White House chefs who prepare the president's meals are paid by the government.
For the budget year that ended Sept. 30, Congress gave the White House $19,000 to pay for official receptions and $12.7 million to cover operating expenses for the residence, which may include entertainment. The cost of meals for some White House events, including state dinners and receptions, is picked up by the State Department or political parties.

WHAT ELSE MUST THE FIRST FAMILY PAY FOR?

Since presidents and first ladies can't easily pop into the neighborhood drug store, a White House residence staff member will pick up things like toothpaste and deodorant during shopping runs and keep the bill for Obama.
Another cost is private parties, such as the 50th birthday bash Obama threw earlier this year for first lady Michelle Obama. For private events, presidents pay for food and beverages, use of waiters and servers, and setup and cleanup crews. Taxpayers are only supposed to pay for official government functions.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The White House usher's office prepares a detailed bill and sends a copy to the president and another to the first lady by midmonth. It is itemized to account for all the food and beverages consumed by the first family and personal guests and includes invoices and receipts for those costs and other services.
Obama then reimburses the government.
"It's just the tradition that it's continued on through time that the president will pay for their own food and, I guess, if they needed something for the house that was personal. Toothpaste, cologne or whatever," said William Bushong, chief historian at the White House Historical Association.

HAS ANYONE EVER COMPLAINED ABOUT THIS?

The practice appeared to catch Nancy Reagan by surprise.
"Nobody had told us that the president and his wife are charged for every meal, as well as for such incidentals as dry cleaning, toothpaste and other toiletries," she said shortly after she and President Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in January 1981.
Laura Bush knew about it — she's the daughter-in-law of a president — but was still unprepared for some of the costs after becoming first lady in 2001.
"I was amazed by the sheer number of designer clothes that I was expected to buy, like the women before me, to meet the fashion expectations for a first lady," Mrs. Bush wrote in her memoir. "After our first year in the White House, our accountant said to George (W. Bush), 'It costs a lot to be president,' and he was referring mainly to my clothes."
She also paid "with our own money" for someone to blow-dry her hair most mornings "just so I could try to avoid a bad hair day."

WHAT IS OBAMA'S SALARY?

He gets $400,000 annually, plus a $50,000 allowance to help defray costs associated with carrying out his official duties.

WHAT ARE SOME OF OBAMA'S OTHER PERSONAL EXPENSES?

Mortgage on a home in Chicago, private-school tuition for his daughters.

WHAT DOES HE GET FOR FREE AT THE WHITE HOUSE?

Rent, utilities, transportation, security, medical care.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

With Incentives And Brute Force, IS Subdues Tribes

People look at bodies of Sunni fighters who were shot by a group of gunmen on a main street of the town of Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq


BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group is employing multiple tactics to subdue the Sunni Muslim tribes in Syria and Iraq under its rule, wooing some with gifts — everything from cars to feed for their animals — while brutally suppressing those that resist with mass killings.
The result is that the extremists face little immediate threat of an uprising by the tribes, which are traditionally the most powerful social institution in the large areas of eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq controlled by the group. Any U.S. drive to try to turn tribesmen against the militants, as the Americans did with Sunnis during the Iraq war, faces an uphill battle.
Some tribes in Syria and Iraq already oppose the Islamic State group. For example, the Shammar tribe, which spans the countries' border, has fought alongside Kurdish forces against the extremists in Iraq. The U.S. and Iraqi governments have proposed creating a national guard program that would arm and pay tribesmen to fight, though the effort has yet to get off the ground.
But in Syria in particular, tribes have no outside patron to bankroll or arm them to take on IS, leaving them with few options other than to bend to Islamic State domination or flee. "There are people who want to go back and fight them," said Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi. "But the circumstances now mean that you can't provoke ISIS because the strategy they've followed and tactics are to prevent any revolt from inside."
The rulers of the self-styled caliphate have mastered techniques of divide and rule. Tribes are powerful institutions that command the loyalty of their members across the largely desert regions of Syria and Iraq. But they are also far from cohesive. Large tribes are divided up into smaller sub-tribes and clans that can be pitted against each other. Such divisions also emerge on their own, often in connection to control over local resources like oil wells or land.
Also, the Islamic State group itself has roots in the tribes. Though hundreds of foreign fighters have flocked to join the group, most of its leaders and foot soldiers are Iraqis and Syrians — and often belong to tribes.
In eastern Syria's Deir el-Zour province, for example, the Ogeidat is one of the largest tribes. One of its major clans, the Bu Jamel, has been a staunch opponent of the extremists. Another, the Bakir, long ago allied itself to the group.
IS operatives use threats or offers of money or fuel to win public pledges of loyalty from senior tribal sheikhs. The group has also wooed younger tribesmen with economic enticements and promises of positions within IS, undermining the traditional power structure of the tribe.
"They offer many sweeteners," said Abu Ali al-Badie, a tribal leader from the central city of Palmyra in Syria's Homs province. "They go to the tribes and say, 'Why are you fighting against Muslims? We'll give you weapons and cars and guns, and we'll fight together.'"
"They offer diesel and fuel. They bring barley and animal feed from Iraq," he said. "They build wells at their own expense for the tribes and they say, 'Others have neglected your needs.'" In Syria, IS has won the acceptance of many tribesmen in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour provinces by ending chaos that reigned when the areas were controlled by a patchwork of rebel warlords. IS provides services including electricity, fuel, water and telephone lines, as well as flour for bakeries, said Haian Dukhan, a researcher at the University of St. Andrews Center for Syrian Studies.
"Things have started to become stable to a degree, and this is something that people were really desperate about," said Dukhan. The group has "tribal affairs" officials to handle relations with the tribes, calibrating its style to local dynamics. Often they will allow loyal tribesmen to run their communities' services, said Hassan.
The group also has removed its own commanders who caused tension with tribes in their areas. The idea, Hassan said, is "to remove some of the toxins." At the same time, the group sends a clear message to those who resist.
In August, IS militants shot and beheaded hundreds of members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria. Activists reported death tolls ranging from 200 to 700. Photographs in the Islamic State's English-language "Dabiq" magazine showed black-clad fighters shooting prisoners said to be Shueitat, lined up on the sandy ground.
In Iraq, IS killed more than 200 men, women and children from the Al Bu Nimr tribe in Anbar province, apparently in revenge for the tribe's siding with security forces and, in the past, with American troops. It has also shot dead several men from the Al Bu Fahd tribe.
"Everyone is hiding or fled. They will chop us in pieces if they see us," said Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a leader in the Al Bu Nimr. "They want us to support them and to join their fight. In return, they say they will let us live in peace."
As a result, Dukhan says there's little chance for a revolt unless tribes are confident the extremists are losing. "I think that for the time being, seeing a large-scale uprising against IS is just a fantasy."
Associated Press writers Vivian Salama in Baghdad and Diaa Hadid in Beirut contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Grand Jury Papers Full Of Inconsistencies

Protesters demonstrate on the steps of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. 


FERGUSON, MO. (AP) — Some witnesses said Michael Brown had been shot in the back. Another said he was face-down on the ground when Officer Darren Wilson "finished him off." Still others acknowledged changing their stories to fit published details about the autopsy or admitted that they did not see the shooting at all.
An Associated Press review of thousands of pages of grand jury documents reveals numerous examples of statements made during the shooting investigation that were inconsistent, fabricated or provably wrong. For one, the autopsies ultimately showed Brown was not struck by any bullets in his back.
Prosecutors exposed these inconsistencies before the jurors, which likely influenced their decision not to indict Wilson in Brown's death. Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, said the grand jury had to weigh testimony that conflicted with physical evidence and conflicting statements by witnesses as it decided whether Wilson should face charges.
"Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence," McCulloch said.
The decision Monday not to charge Wilson with any crime set off more violent protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and around the country, fueled by claims that the unarmed black 18-year-old was shot while surrendering to the white officer in the mostly African-American city.
What people thought were facts about the Aug. 9 shooting have become intertwined with what many see as abuses of power and racial inequality in America. And media coverage of the shooting's aftermath made it into the grand jury proceedings. Before some witnesses testified, prosecutors showed jurors clips of the same people making statements on TV.
Their inconsistencies began almost immediately after the shooting, from people in the neighborhood, the friend walking with Brown during the encounter and even one woman who authorities suggested probably wasn't even at the scene at the time.
Jurors also were presented with dueling versions from Wilson and Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Brown during the Aug. 9 confrontation. Johnson painted Wilson as provoking the violence, while Wilson said Brown was the aggressor.
But Johnson also declared on TV, in a clip played for the grand jury, that Wilson fired at least one shot at his friend while Brown was running away: "It struck my friend in the back." Johnson held to a variation of this description in his grand jury testimony, saying the shot caused Brown's body to "do like a jerking movement, not to where it looked like he got hit in his back, but I knew, it maybe could have grazed him, but he definitely made a jerking movement."
Other eyewitness accounts also were clearly wrong. One woman, who said she was smoking a cigarette with a friend nearby, claimed she saw a second police officer in the passenger seat of Wilson's vehicle. When quizzed by a prosecutor, she elaborated: The officer was white, "middle age or young" and in uniform. She said she was positive there was a second officer — even though there was not.
Another woman testified that she saw Brown leaning through the officer's window "from his navel up," with his hand moving up and down, as if he were punching the officer. But when the same witness returned to testify again on another day, she said she suffers from mental disorder, has racist views and that she has trouble distinguishing the truth from things she had read online.
Prosecutors suggested the woman had fabricated the entire incident and was not even at the scene the day of the shooting. Another witness had told the FBI that Wilson shot Brown in the back and then "stood over him and finished him off." But in his grand jury testimony, this witness acknowledged that he had not seen that part of the shooting, and that what he told the FBI was "based on me being where I'm from, and that can be the only assumption that I have."
The witness, who lives in the predominantly black neighborhood where Brown was killed, also acknowledged that he changed his story to fit details of the autopsy that he had learned about on TV. "So it was after you learned that the things you said you saw couldn't have happened that way, then you changed your story about what you seen?" a prosecutor asserted.
"Yeah, to coincide with what really happened," the witness replied. Another man, describing himself as a friend of Brown's, told a federal investigator that he heard the first gunshot, looked out his window and saw an officer with a gun drawn and Brown "on his knees with his hands in the air." He added: "I seen him shoot him in the head."
But when later pressed by the investigator, the friend said he had not seen the actual shooting because he was walking down the stairs at the time and instead had heard details from someone in the apartment complex.
"What you are saying you saw isn't forensically possible based on the evidence," the investigator told the friend. Shortly after that, the friend asked if he could leave. "I ain't feeling comfortable," he said.
Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman, Catherine Lucey, Nomaan Merchant, Garance Burke, Jeff Donn, David B. Caruso and Paul Weber contributed to this report.
An updated interactive about the Ferguson grand jury is available here: http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2014/ferguson-shooting/

Once Maligned, Iran's Jews Find Greater Acceptance

In this Nov, 2014 combo image made up of 8 photos, Iranian Jews pose for photographs holding a painting of Moses with "The Ten Commandments," after prayers at the Molla Agha Baba Synagogue, in the city of Yazd.


YAZD, IRAN (AP) — More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrimage like many others in the Islamic Republic — until you notice men there wearing yarmulkes.
Iran, a home for Jews for more than 3,000 years, has the Middle East's largest Jewish population outside of Israel, a perennial foe of the country. But while Iran's Jews in recent years had their faith continually criticized by the country's previous governments, they've found new acceptance under moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
"The government has listened to our grievances and requests. That we are being consulted is an important step forward," said Homayoun Samiah, leader of the Tehran Jewish Association. "Under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nobody was listening to us. Our requests fell on deaf ears."
Most of Iran's 77 million people are Shiite Muslims and its ruling establishment is led by hard-line clerics who preach a strict version of Islam. Many Jews fled the country after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Jews linked to Israel afterward were targeted. Today, estimates suggest some 20,000 Jews remain in the country.
Tensions grew under Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly called the Holocaust "a myth" and even sponsored an international conference in 2006 to debate whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place. Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi once accused Jews as whole of being drug dealers.
But since Rouhani took office last year, Jews say they have been heartened by the support they've received. His government agreed to allow Jewish schools to be closed on Saturdays to mark Shabbat, the day of rest. Rouhani also allocated the equivalent of $400,000 to a Jewish charity hospital in Tehran and invited the country's only Jewish lawmaker to accompany him to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last year.
"We were fearful in the '80s. We were feeling the pressure. Now, we are not concerned anymore. We feel secure and enjoy freedoms," said Mahvash Kohan, a female Jewish pilgrim who came to Yazd from Shiraz. "In the past, Israel and others were providing incentives such as housing that lured some Jews. Now, it's not like that. And Iranian Jews have better living and working conditions in Iran. So, no one is willing to leave now."
Still, human rights groups say Jews and other minorities in Iran face discrimination. Last year, officials in Iran's presidency denied that Rouhani had a Twitter account after a tweet that appeared to be from the leader offered a greeting for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Iranian state television also has aired anti-Semitic programming.
Those taking part in the recent Yazd pilgrimage to the tomb of a famed Jewish scholar, however, praised the Iranian government's new outreach. "We've gathered here to pray and celebrate our Jewishness," Kohan said. "We are proud that we freely practice our religion."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Obama Appeals For Calm After Ferguson Decision

A crowd, consisting of students from Howard University and others, gather in front of the White House, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Washington, after the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson.


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding in Ferguson on Monday after a grand jury decided not to indict in the death of Michael Brown, pleading with both residents and police officers to show restraint.
"We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make," Obama said. In a late-night statement from the White House, Obama said it was understandable that some Americans would be "deeply disappointed — even angered" that police officer Darren Wilson wasn't indicted. Yet he echoed Brown's parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful, saying that their wishes should be honored as they grieve their son.
At the same time, Obama sought to dispel the notion that race relations have deteriorated, the protests in Ferguson notwithstanding. He called for Americans to turn their attention to ways to bring police and their communities closer together.
"That won't be done by throwing bottles. That won't be done by smashing car windows. That won't be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property," Obama said. "It certainly won't be done by hurting anybody."
Yet the scene playing out in suburban Missouri, just minutes after the grand jury's announcement, stood in stark contrast to Obama's calls for calm. As Obama spoke live from the White House briefing room, television networks showed Obama on one side of the screen, and violent demonstrations in Ferguson on the other.
Police said protesters smashed windows, vandalized police cars and threw rocks at authorities as anger erupted after the announcement Monday night that Wilson, a white officer, wouldn't be indicted for shooting Brown. The death of the unarmed, black 18-year-old in August sparked weeks of protests that authorities feared would be revived after the grand jury's decision was handed down.
Outside the White House, a few hundred people protested peacefully, holding up signs reading "Justice for Michael Brown" and chanting "Hands up, don't shoot" — a refrain that's become a rallying cry in Ferguson since Brown's death.
"This is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America," Obama said. "There are still problems, and communities of color aren't just making this up." Obama, who has faced repeated calls to visit Ferguson, said he would "take a look" at whether such a visit would now be wise. The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges. Attorney General Eric Holder called Brown's death a "tragedy" and said federal investigators were taking pains not to jump to conclusions.
"While constructive efforts are under way in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust," Holder said. The uproar sparked by Brown's death has challenged Obama to find constructive, measured ways to address the deep racial tensions exposed by the incident without alienating law enforcement or casting undue blame amid ongoing investigations.
In 2012, Obama spoke passionately after the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, telling the public that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." But the circumstances in Ferguson were different, with a police officer claiming self-defense, and Obama has sought to avoid inflaming racial divisions.
In his remarks on Monday, Obama urged the country to channel its frustration in ways that would be constructive, not destructive. He said within his own life, he had witnessed "enormous progress" on race.
"To deny that progress, I think, is to deny America's capacity for change," Obama said.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Fires Burn In Ferguson, Gunshots Heard In Streets

Lesley McSpadden, second from right, Michael Brown's mother, is comforted outside the Ferguson police department as St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch conveys the grand jury's decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson


FERGUSON, MO. (AP) — Flames engulfed at least a dozen businesses in Ferguson early Tuesday and gunfire kept firefighters at bay after protests over the decision not to indict a police officer in Michael Brown's death turned violent, despite pleas for peace from Brown's family and others.
Protesters smashed windows out of police cars and buildings, several of which were later looted and set ablaze, and officers lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse crowds in scenes reminiscent of the early days of unrest that followed the Aug. 9 shooting.
But the violence that followed Monday's decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the death of the unarmed black 18-year-old quickly took a more destructive turn — a storage facility, two auto parts stores, a beauty supply store and pizza shop were just some of the businesses that burned.
An Associated Press photographer saw firefighters arrive at one scene only to be turned back by gunfire. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said during an early morning news conference that he "personally heard about 150 shots fired" during the course of the night, but said police did not fire a shot. He said most of at least a dozen burned businesses were "total losses" and noted two police cars were "basically melted."
"I don't think we were underprepared," Belmar said. "But I'll be honest with you, unless we bring 10,000 policemen in here, I don't think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community."
Smashed window glass littered the sidewalks around many other businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to a McDonalds along the main drag. The Ferguson Market — where surveillance video had recorded Brown stealing cigars minutes before he was killed — was ransacked.
At least one building and several vehicles in a used car lot also burned in the neighboring city of Dellwood. The vast majority of protesters had left the streets by late Monday, but looting and gunfire still were reported well after midnight.
Hundreds of people had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department ahead of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's news conference to announce the grand jury's decision. As McCulloch read his statement, a crowd gathered around a car from which the news conference was broadcast on a stereo. Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop the car. When the decision was announced, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
A short time later, Brown's family issued a statement asking people to keep their protests peaceful, echoing pleas they had issued several times in the days and weeks leading up to the decision. "Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction," the statement said.
But some protesters overran barricades and taunted police. Some chanted "murderer" and others threw rocks and bottles. The windows of a police car were smashed and protesters tried to topple it before it was set on fire, though some in the crowd tried to stop others from taking part in the violence.
Officers responded by firing what authorities said was smoke and pepper spray into the crowd. St. Louis County Police later confirmed tear gas also was used.

No Charges In Ferguson Case; Chaos Fills Streets

7Ferguson Market and Liquor store is vandalized after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.


FERGUSON, MO. (AP) — A grand jury declined Monday to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests and inflamed deep racial tensions between many African-Americans and police.
Moments after the announcement by St. Louis County's top prosecutor, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision. Some taunted police, broke windows and vandalized cars. Within a few hours, several large buildings were ablaze, and frequent gunfire was heard. Officers used tear gas to try to disperse some of the gatherings.
Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
"They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence," he said, adding that the jurors "poured their hearts and soul into this process." As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.
At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The grand jury met in secret, a standard practice for such proceedings. Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, a defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous accounts from witnesses. When asked by a reporter whether any of the accounts amount to perjury, he said, "I think they truly believe that's what they saw, but they didn't."
The prosecutor also was critical of the media, saying "the most significant challenge" for his office was a "24-hour news cycle and an insatiable appetite for something — for anything — to talk about."
In his statement, McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed when he was killed. Brown's family released a statement saying they were "profoundly disappointed" in the decision but asked that the public "channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen."
Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson's testimony. Wilson told jurors that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and, when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive.
Wilson then noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, "and that's when it clicked for me," he said, referring to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store. Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional police, then backed his vehicle up in front of Brown and his friend. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said Brown slammed it back shut.
The officer said he then pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking: "What do I do not to get beaten inside my car." "I drew my gun," Wilson told the grand jury. "I said, "Get back or I'm going to shoot you."
"He immediately grabs my gun and says, "You are too much of a pussy to shoot me," Wilson told grand jurors. He said Brown grabbed the gun with his right hand, twisted it and "digs it into my hip." Asked why he felt the need to pull his gun, Wilson told grand jurors he was concerned another punch to his face could "knock me out or worse."
After shots were fired in the vehicle, Brown fled, and Wilson gave chase. At some point, Brown turned around to face the officer. Witness accounts were conflicted about whether Brown walked, stumbled or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded, McCulloch said. There were also differing accounts of how or whether Brown's hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson's vehicle.
Thousands of people rallied in other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York, to protest Monday's decision, leading marches, waving signs and shouting chants of "Hands Up! Don't Shoot," the slogan that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.
President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding, pleading with both protesters and police to show restraint. "We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make," Obama said. He said it was understandable that some Americans would be "deeply disappointed — even angered," but echoed Brown's parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful.
Monday night's violence initially resembled the unrest during the days that followed Brown's death, when business windows were smashed and police vehicles damaged. But the destruction soon widened, with several large fires burning out of control and reports of frequent gunfire.
At least 10 St. Louis-bound flights were diverted to other airports because of concern about gunfire being aimed into the sky over Ferguson. Only law-enforcement aircraft were permitted to fly through the area, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, Brown's family could also file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson. The Aug. 9 shooting heightened tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force. As Brown's body lay for hours in the center of a residential street, an angry crowd of onlookers gathered. Rioting and looting occurred the following night, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.
Protests continued for weeks — often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon briefly summoned the National Guard.
Throughout the investigation, some black leaders and Brown's parents questioned McCulloch's ability to be impartial. The prosecutor's father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect in 1964.
McCulloch was 12 at the time, and the killing became a hallmark of his initial campaign for elected prosecutor. A Democrat, McCulloch has been in office since 1991 and was re-elected to another term earlier this month.
Link to grand jury documents: http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_documents/ferguson-shooting/ .
Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Clayton, Andale Gross and Jim Suhr in Ferguson and Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report. Follow David A. Lieb at: https://twitter.com/DavidALieb .

Highlights Of Testimony In Michael Brown Shooting

The pistol used by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to shoot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. The image was released as part of the evidence presented to the grand jury that declined to indict Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS) A St. Louis County grand jury met for 25 days over three months and heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses — many of whom gave conflicting statements — before deciding not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, according to prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

Here are some of the highlights from the testimony, released by McCulloch's office Monday night:


A PUNCH TO THE FACE

Wilson told the grand jury that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and told them to move to the sidewalk, drawing an expletive from Brown. Wilson said he noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, "and that's when it clicked for me" that the men were suspects in a theft at a convenience store reported minutes earlier.
Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional officers, then backed his vehicle in front of Brown and his friend. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said, Brown slammed it back shut. Wilson said he pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking: "What do I do not to get beaten inside my car?"
Wilson said he drew his gun and threatened to shoot if Brown didn't move back, fearing another punch to the face could "knock me out or worse."
"He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,'" Wilson said, saying he thought he would be shot when Brown dug the gun into the officer's hip.

AN ANGRY LOOK

Wilson said he managed to pull the trigger, and the gun "clicked" twice without firing before a shot went through the window. Wilson said Brown stepped back and then looked at him with the "most intense, aggressive face."
"The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up."
Wilson said he covered his face and fired the gun again. He told the grand jury that he fired two shots in the car before Brown took off running and he followed him.
Wilson said when Brown stopped, he told him to get on the ground. He said he squeezed a series of shots when Brown kept coming toward him and put his right hand under his shirt in the waistband of his pants.
He said he fired another round of shots as Brown continued to gain on him, approaching Wilson as if he was going to tackle him: "Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me. And when he gets about ... 8 to 10 feet away ... all I see is his head and that's what I shot."

A FRIEND'S SHOCK

Brown's companion that day, Dorian Johnson, told the grand jury he was stunned when Brown stole cigarillos from the convenience store, and expected to be arrested while they were walking home. But Wilson drove on after originally telling them to get on the sidewalk, reversing his vehicle and coming back at the pair after they ignored his demand.
"After he pulled back, there was no more sidewalk talk, it was nothing, it was just anger," Johnson told the grand jury.
He said Wilson opened his door suddenly, striking Brown, then closed the door and grabbed Brown by the neck. He said the two men engaged in a "tug of war" each holding on to the other's shirt and arms.
As the two wrestled, he said he heard Wilson say, "I'll shoot." Johnson said he never saw Brown punch Wilson, and didn't think he grabbed the officer's gun.
Johnson described being in shock as he realized things were getting out of control.
"At the time I couldn't open my mouth. I couldn't speak. I wanted to say could someone calm down ... I'm still standing there, more shocked than ever because I see it is escalating, I can see and hear the cuss words, I can see the frowns on their faces getting more intense."

TRYING TO RUN

After the initial shots were fired, Johnson said he and Brown took off running. After Wilson shot again, he said Brown stopped running and turned to face the officer.
"At that time Big Mike's hands was up, but not so much in the air because he had been struck ... he said I don't have a gun, but he's still mad, he still has his angry face. I don't have a gun. ... And before he can say the second sentence or before he can even get it out, that's when the several more shots came."
Johnson was asked if Brown ran at the officer prior to the fatal volley. He insisted he did not.

OUTSIDE WITNESSES

The grand jury testimony includes the accounts of many witnesses whose names are not listed in the transcripts.
One testified that he was working in a nearby building and saw Brown leaning through the police vehicle window and "some sort of confrontation was taking place." He said a shot rang out and Brown fled as the officer chased him with his gun drawn. The witness said Brown stopped and turned but never raised his hands. He said Brown "ran towards the officer full charge." The officer then fired several shots, but Brown kept rushing toward him, the witness said.
Another witness said she and her husband were visiting a nearby apartment complex when they saw the shooting. She said after the first two shots were fired, Brown began running from Wilson's vehicle but stopped, turned around and started heading toward Wilson, who shot at him. When asked if it appeared Brown was approaching Wilson in a threatening manner, the witness said, "No, he wasn't ... I think he was stunned, honestly."
"He just kept walking toward the officer, he didn't stop."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hitler Watercolor Sold For $162,000 At Auction

A picture titled “The Old City Hall” that - as the auction house said - was painted by Adolf Hitler is displayed in an auction house in Nuremberg, Germany

BERLIN, GERMANY (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A watercolor of Munich's old city hall believed to have been painted by Adolf Hitler a century ago was sold for 130,000 euros ($162,000) at an auction in Germany on Saturday.
Kathrin Weidler, director of the Weider auction house in Nuremberg, said the work attracted bidders from four continents and went to a buyer from the Middle East. She declined to elaborate. The auction house says the painting is one some 2,000 by Hitler and is thought to be from about 1914, when he was struggling to make a living as an artist, almost two decades before rising to power as the Nazi dictator.
The painting, which had been expected to fetch at least 50,000 euros, was sold by a pair of elderly sisters whose grandfather purchased it in 1916. Hitler's paintings surface regularly, but the auction house said the 28-by-22 centimeter (11-by-8.5 inch) scene auctioned Saturday also includes the original bill of sale and a signed letter from Hitler's adjutant, Albert Bormann, brother of the dictator's private secretary Martin Bormann.
From the text of the undated Bormann letter, it appears the Nazi-era owner sent a photo of the painting to Hitler's office asking about its provenance. Bormann wrote that it appears to be "one of the works of the Fuehrer."