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Nation & World Briefs: Sept. 18, 2017

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International news headlines you need to know.

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[accordion title=”New Storm Maria a growing threat to Irma-slammed Caribbean” load=”show”]

This image shows tropical weather systems Hurricane Norma, left, on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico; Jose, center, east of Florida; Tropical Depression 15, second from right, north of South America, and Tropical Storm Lee, right, north of eastern Brazil, on Saturday, Sept. 16. (NOAA-NASA GOES PROJECT, AP)

The hurricane-battered islands of the Caribbean are facing yet another storm threat: Forecasters said Sunday that Tropical Storm Maria is likely to hit the Leeward Islands as a strengthening hurricane by Monday night.
Hurricane watches were in effect for many of the very islands still trying to cope with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, including St. Martin, St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was likely to grow into a hurricane on Sunday and swell into major hurricane status by midweek as it heads for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) Sunday afternoon. It was centered about 405 miles (655 kilometers) southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was heading west-northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
The Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by Monday night, with storm surge raising water levels by 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.83 meters) near the storm’s center.
The storm is likely to bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
Meanwhile, long-lived Hurricane Jose was moving northward off the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard, kicking up dangerous surf and rip currents. But it wasn’t expected to make landfall. It was centered about 355 miles (575 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at 9 mph (15 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph).
In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Norma’s threat to Mexico’s Los Cabos area appeared to be easing. Forecasters said the storm was weakening and its center was likely to remain offshore.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee slipped back to tropical depression force in the Atlantic and Tropical Storm Otis was gaining force fall out in the Pacific. Neither threatened land.[/accordion]
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[accordion title=”Protests follow ex-St.Louis officer’s acquittal in killing” load=”hide”]

Protesters gather Friday Sept. 15 in St. Louis after a judge found a white former St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith, who was fatally shot following in a high-speed chase in 2011. (Jeff Roberson, AP)

A white former police officer was acquitted Friday in the 2011 death of a black man who was fatally shot following a high-speed chase, and hundreds of demonstrators streamed into the streets of downtown St. Louis and later an upscale neighborhood to protest the verdict that had stirred fears of civil unrest for weeks.
Ahead of the acquittal, activists had threatened civil disobedience if Jason Stockley were not convicted, including possible efforts to shut down highways. Barricades went up last month around police headquarters, the courthouse where the trial was held and other potential protest sites. Protesters were marching within hours of the decision.
More than a dozen arrests were made, and several officers were hurt as the day went on.
The case played out not far from the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, which was the scene of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was killed by a white police officer in 2014. That officer was never charged and eventually resigned.
Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder, insisted he saw 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , Stockley said he understands how the video of him fatally shooting Smith looks bad to investigators and the public, but he said the optics have to be separated from the facts and he did nothing wrong.
“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” he said.
Stockley, 36, asked the case to be decided by a judge instead of a jury. Prosecutors objected to his request for a bench trial.
“This court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in the decision .
In a written statement, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner acknowledged the difficulty of winning police shooting cases but said prosecutors believe they “offered sufficient evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that Stockley intended to kill Smith.
Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele emphasized during the trial that police dashcam video of the chase captured Stockley saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.”
Less than a minute later, the officer shot Smith five times. Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous police pursuit. The judge wrote that the statement “can be ambiguous depending on the context.”
The case was among several in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect. Officers were acquitted in recent police shooting trials in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.[/accordion]
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[accordion title=”Transgender troops can re-enlist in military for now” load=”hide”]

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the Pentagon. New guidance released by the Pentagon on Sept. 15, makes it clear that any transgender troops currently in the military can re-enlist in the next several months. (Alex Brandon, AP)

New guidance released Friday by the Pentagon makes it clear that any transgender troops currently in the military can re-enlist in the next several months, even as the department debates how broadly to enforce a ban on their service ordered by President Donald Trump.
In a memo to top military leaders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a high-level panel will determine how to implement Trump’s ban on transgender individuals in the military. Trump directed the military to indefinitely extend the ban on transgender individuals enlisting in the service, but he left it up to Mattis to decide if those currently serving should be allowed to stay.
Members of Congress have already sent a letter to Trump calling on him to reconsider the ban.
Sen. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday he backed legislation that would bar the Trump administration from forcing transgender troops out of the armed forces.
McCain of Arizona said in a statement that any service member, including those who are transgender, who meets the standards for military readiness and medical fitness should be permitted to serve.
“When less than 1 percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” McCain said.
The bill is an attempt to establish protections for transgender troops in law, cutting off Trump’s efforts to kick service members out based on their gender identity. Trump tweeted in July that he would ban transgender troops from serving anywhere in the U.S. military. The directive caught the Pentagon flat-footed as defense officials struggled to explain what they called Trump’s guidance.
Mattis has said the Pentagon will develop a plan that “will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion.”[/accordion]
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Nation & World Briefs: Sept. 18, 2017