UPDATE: Shooting on Oregon college campus claims multiple victims

A gunman opened fire at the Umpqua Community College campus on Thursday, killing 13 people and wounding 20, according to latest reports.

Details are sketchy as the area is still an active crime scene, but authorities said that the alleged gunman,  identified as a 20-year-old male, was fatally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released the following information:

“On October 1, 2015 at approximately 10:38 AM, Douglas County Emergency Communications received a report of an active shooter in a classroom on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Law enforcement officers from all parts of Douglas County responded to the scene. Responding officers encountered the suspect and exchanged gunfire. The male shooter is deceased.”

According to an eyewitness account, the assailant entered the Snyder Hall classroom building armed with several guns and demanded that people get on the ground. The gunman then reportedly asked each person to stand and state their religious preference.

The shooter then opened fire on the assembled students as they scrambled for safety from the hail of gunfire. 18-year-old Kortney Moore told the News-Review that her writing teacher was killed by a gunshot to the head. State and local law enforcement are now at the scene along with the F.B.I. and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The media release also said that students and staff were transported to the Douglas County Fairgrounds to be reunited with family members. The American Red Cross is also assisting those attempting to contact loved ones. Anyone wishing to check on loved ones can go to, https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/.

President Obama offered condolences to the victims and families during a news conference on Thursday. He also took the time to express his frustration over continuing gun violence in America. This is the latest incident in a string of mass shootings that have occurred across the country within the past several years and the deadliest school shooting since 20 schoolchildren and six adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

Advertisements

NASA discovers flowing water on Mars: How about that?

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleThere may not be any gold in “them thar hills” but NASA has still located the the mother lode.

The agency announced on Monday that evidence of flowing water was discovered on the Red Planet. The finding bolsters speculation by scientists that life exists on Mars or may have in the past. Water is one of the key elements necessary to sustain life as we currently know it and finding water on Mars is a big step toward further exploration and eventual manned travel to the planet.

NASA scientists say they have confirmed evidence that salty water intermittently flows on Mars’ surface. Previously, Mars was thought to be an arid, dust-covered wasteland until further observation revealed polar caps made up almost entirely of water ice. The discovery of frozen water ice at the Martian poles led some scientists to speculate that liquid water also existed on Mars, however, there was doubt that the thin Martian atmosphere could sustain liquid water.

Based on geological data and data from robotic probes, evidence was mounting to support the theory that water could exist on Mars as a liquid, but the evidence remained inconclusive—until now. Although the discovery of liquid water on Mars is a huge find, one of scientists’ next steps is to unravel the mystery of how the planet became the way it is today.

“We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm, salty seas and fresh water lakes,” NASA’s planetary science director, Jim Green told reporters at a news conference. “But something has happened to Mars, it lost its water.”

Discovering whatever that “something” was that caused Mars to lose its earth-like appearance is another puzzle piece in the quest to unlock more of the Red Planet’s secrets.

The Terror Within: A short story

It was a mild and sunny day as the man strolled seemingly aimlessly down the sidewalk. A light breeze carried the aroma of flowers and freshly cut grass, mingled with the odor of automobile exhaust as the man casually walked with a small, tattered book in one hand and clutched an equally tattered satchel underneath his arm.

Finally, he arrived at his destination — a small park. Although it was not much more than a patch of greenery among the dense urban sprawl surrounding it, the little area seemed to offer the man a measure of tranquility as he eagerly sat down on a ragged bench. This was his quiet place and even though the rest of the city bustled about, this was a place of calm for him.

The man placed the satchel on the bench next to him then opened the tattered old book and began reading – oblivious to all of the noise around him. He loved reading old books but this one was very special to him because it held within it all of the knowledge and wisdom of an era long gone. The words in the ancient tome seemed to rise from the wrinkled pages and take on a life of their own.

Within his mind’s eye, he was transported back to the time when the words in the book were first penned. He shared in the pride and jubilation he was certain that those responsible for it felt at the completion of their labor.

Suddenly, he was snatched back into reality as he spotted the men turning the corner in the speeding vehicle. Before he could do anything, they were upon him. The masked men jumped from the vehicle and wrestled him to the ground. He felt the cold steel of an automatic rifle muzzle as it was roughly pressed to the base of his skull. Outnumbered, he dared not struggle lest the hulking men with his arms violently twisted behind his back might snap them completely from his body.

He felt the crushing blow of a knee as it was brought down into the small of his back, causing him great pain. The man began to feel his consciousness slipping away. With great effort he managed to speak to his assailants.

“Why are you doing this to me,” he wheezed, as the air was being crushed from his lungs.

“Shut your mouth!” came the terse response from one man who appeared to be the leader.

The others restraining him looked on as another masked man grabbed the satchel and forced it open to examine its contents.

“Be careful!” came the command from the leader. “We don’t know what kind of nasty surprises may be hidden in there,” he barked.

Despite all of the activity, no one slowed down to see what was happening. In fact, people sped up and began avoiding the scene as the masked attackers continued their assault on the apparently helpless man.

During the scuffle, the tattered old book the man was reading had fallen to the ground and a few of its pages were scattered nearby.

“We have what we need here,” shouted the one who examined the satchel.

“Good!” said the leader, shaking his head with disgust, as he plucked the old book from the ground along with some loose pages and put them into a plastic bag.

“Please!” the man begged. “I have done nothing wrong, I only …”

“Save your explanations for the judge, old man,” the leader snapped back. “The courts have no mercy for terrorists … You are under arrest! Take him away,” ordered the leader.

The frightened man was handcuffed and placed into the police van. As the van sped off, a single leaf from the tattered old book fluttered down into the gutter.
There, barely visible on the faded page, were the words, “We The People…”

An exclusive interview with Russian president Vladimir V. Putin (Satire)

Source: An exclusive interview with Russian president Vladimir V. Putin (Satire)

Featured

A matter of conscience: Should religious beliefs exempt people from obeying the law?

The arrest and subsequent jailing of a Kentucky county clerk for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has ignited Church and state copycontroversy over whether people in the workplace have the right to refuse to comply with laws if they are contrary to their religious beliefs.

The latest round of debates began when Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis gained national attention after being jailed for failure to comply with a court order from US District Judge David Bunning, to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses. The US Supreme Court handed down a ruling earlier this year that legally codified same-sex unions and compels all states to honor marriage license applications from same-sex couples.

Immediately, religious and conservative organizations challenged the ruling, asserting that marriage is between one man and one woman. Davis, 49, who is a Apostolic Christian, said that her personal morals and religious beliefs will not allow her to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

On Tuesday, after five days behind bars on contempt charges, Bunning ordered that Davis be released. However, Bunning added that Davis’ release was on the condition that she did not prevent her office from fulfilling its legal obligation to comply with the law. Attorneys earlier petitioned Gov. Steve Beshear for Davis’ release but Beshear declined to intervene, citing the conflict as being a matter for the courts.

Shortly after her release on Tuesday, a jubilant but still defiant Davis addressed a crowd of supporters, urging them to continue resistance and not give in.

“Thank you all so much. I love you all so very much… I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people. We serve a living God who knows exactly where each and every one of us is at. Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down, because he is here. He’s worthy,” Davis said to the cheering crowd.

Lawyers representing Davis, who plans to return to work, are seeking a way to allow Davis to stay on her job but not have to issue marriage licenses.

Analysis:

The case of Kim Davis is one of several that have cropped up across the country involving individuals’ refusal to provide services to gay and lesbian couples.

In Colorado where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014, the courts found that a Lakewood, Colo., bakery illegally discriminated against a same-sex couple for refusing to make a wedding cake for them. Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery specifically said that he would not serve gay couples, which also violates a longstanding Colorado civil rights law as well as federal law.

As with Davis, the courts ruled against Philips, ordering him to serve the couple if he planned on continuing to serve the public. Philips, like Davis opted for jail before violating his religious beliefs. The problem is that Davis and Philips believe that they should be able to refuse service to gay people yet continue to serve the rest of the public.

Not so, according to the courts which have ruled without fail,even before the passage of this new law, that people cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of race, age, or sex and also expanded to address sexual orientation as well. According to the courts, religious beliefs are no defense against refusal to comply with the law.

One cannot look at the current situation without drawing parallels with the Civil Rights Movement of the previous century. Just as there was much resistance to African-Americans gaining rights, we see the same and even increased resistance toward the gay community.

This is not just a matter of conscience, it is also a matter of law vs Constitutional rights. Theoretically, all citizens are protected under the Bill of Rights but this is a situation where laws clash. The perceived protection provided by the First Amendment guarantees people freedom of religion but the courts say this does not extend to the public workplace.

In other words, no local, state or federal employee can refuse any service mandated by law. Private sector business employees are not exempt either. What’s worse is that even if a person resigns from their position, they could still be held civilly liable for their actions while employed.

Should the government have this much power over our lives or do we really have certain inalienable rights that trump the will of the State?

But if people have the right to say no based solely on religious grounds, what about the rights of the others who are being refused? Shouldn’t they be allowed to exercise their freedom of belief as well. More importantly, how can we reconcile the two?

Historically, devout believers in in God have consistently stood by those beliefs, even if it meant incarceration or even death in some cases. When dealing with such a strong force, is it possible to reach a compromise?

Some people call religion the “Great Divider” but in truth there are other things that divide us as well such as race and political ideologies.

Such is a prevailing and everlasting problem with the double-edged sword of freedom when competing paradigms clash but which authority should be the ultimate decider of policy? Should it be the State, under its rule of law or should it be religion, under its rule by God?

Featured

Police in Colorado on high alert after telephone death threats, shots fired at officers

AURORA, Colo. — Police in the Denver and Aurora area are on high alert after receiving death threats targeted at police p1177813486-3officers, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said on Wednesday.

“It’s absolutely chilling,” said Metz, describing the call during an interview on “Good Day Colorado.”

At about 6 p.m. on Sunday, an unidentified person made a 911 call to the Aurora Police Department with the following warning:

“It’s time that you guys know we are no longer playing around with the police departments. Aurora and Denver, we are about to start striking fear shooting down all cops that we see by their selves. This will go for the sheriff’s department. You guys are evicting innocent people. Let us catch you by yourself and it’s shots fired.”

Authorities said the call was made from a disconnected Cricket cell phone and the caller may have disguised his voice. Because of heightened anti-police sentiment and the nature of the call, police are taking the threat very seriously.

Aurora Police Association President Bob Wesner said that he was not surprised by the call but very rarely do they receive calls from people wanting to shoot at police.

Approximately four hours after the threats were received, an unknown suspect opened fire on officers responding to a call. Authorities would not release many details about the incident but Aurora Police Department spokeswoman, Diana Cooley, did confirm that officers heard shots shortly after arriving at an unrelated call and that several shots were then fired at the officers.

The officers did not return fire and no one was injured. Investigators would not say if this could have been an ambush and have not determined if the incident is related to the earlier 911 threats. Authorities issued an officer safety bulletin and are also making the public aware of the situation.

Featured

Man rescues rack of ribs from burning apartment building

Thick smoke poured from the apartment building as fire ripped through the structure while residents ran for their lives to escape the inferno but Robert Wright knew exactly what he had to do.

After making sure that his family was safe, the Fresno, Calif., man then braved the conflagration to make one last rescue–a rack of barbecued ribs he was preparing when the fire broke out.

“First thing, I got my kids, and I thought about my ribs. Like, I didn’t want my ribs to burn and stuff because I take pride in what I do, man,” Wright told KMPH  News Photojournalist Ryan Hudgins in a video interview that has gone viral.

The video, which received more than 400,000 views within the first 48 hours, shows Wright outlining his nerve-racking rescue of the tender victuals as he held them up for the camera like a championship belt.

Wright said that he was preparing the late-night snack at about 3 a.m. when he noticed fire coming from an adjacent apartment.

“It’s like three o’clock in the morning; I was hungry, man,” said Wright . “Put the ribs on there, man, some hot links and stuff. We got it going and stuff, but I looked over, the fire was bursting out. Like, man, this is crazy, man. … It was frantic.”

Fire officials said that seven other people along with Wright and his family were forced to relocate due to the fire. Because of the late hour that Wright decided to have his cookout, Fresno fire authorities received several calls about Wright’s involvement with the blaze.

“From what we could tell, the rib guy had no responsibility in the fire,” Fire Department spokesman Pete Martinez said. “He just happened to be cooking ribs at the time, which is phenomenal.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.