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Gilberton Police Chief Mark Kessler talks with the media before a closed disciplinary hearing in the borough building, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 in Mahanoy Plane, Pa. Kessler, who gained national notoriety for a series of YouTube videos in which he ranted against liberals while spraying gunfire, fought to keep his job Thursday. (Jacqueline Dormer/Republican-Herald/AP)

Fired! Profane, gun-blasting police chief loses job. Justice served? (+video)

By Staff writer / 09.20.13

Police Chief Mark Kessler, who gained national notoriety for a series of YouTube videos in which he ranted against liberals while spraying gunfire, has been fired.

The town council of Gilberton, Pa., voted 6-to-1 Thursday to terminate Mr. Kessler’s contract, citing a series of inappropriate acts and behavior, including profaning local officials to the world.

Meant to draw attention to what Kessler sees as erosion of Second Amendment rights, the videos were intended to have shock value to bring attention to the issue, Kessler told Fox News. "Yeah, I made some videos with some choice language, but that's my right,” he said. “That's my freedom."

Aside from his successful, if job-ending, gambit to bring attention to his cause, Kessler’s videos, and now his termination, have also brought renewed focus to a movement within US law enforcement, especially among rural pollice chiefs and sheriffs, to resist federal attempts at gun control.

Hundreds of sheriffs have said they’ll refuse to carry out any new gun control laws, and some suggest that they’ll confront or arrest federal agents who attempt to carry out any new federal regulations designed to curtail Second Amendment rights.

While most states have expanded gun rights in recent years, Colorado, New York, and Connecticut have tightened regulations in the wake of several high-profile massacres, including the Newton, Conn., shootings in Decmeber that killed 20 schoolchildren. (A Senate committee struck down a proposed raft of gun controls in April, though President Obama earlier this month used executive power to ban military-grade weapons from being imported into the United States.)

Kessler has stepped up his activism in more concrete ways, as well, starting what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “militia-like” group called the Constitution Protection Force, which reportedly has 40 chapters across the country.

While other law enforcement officials who know Kessler say the former coal miner has been a good police chief, many questioned his tactics. Richard Mack, founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association, told the Monitor recently that Kessler used “kind of shock-and-awe tactics” without providing “any real leadership or direction.”

As Kessler deliberated with the town council behind closed doors on Thursday, a small armed posse, including members of the Constitution Protection Force, were on hand to show support for him.

Many believed he was being punished for publicly supporting two distinct amendments: the First Amendment’s right to free speech and the Second Amendment, which the US Supreme Court has said gives citizens the right to own guns for purposes of self-defense.

Local borough officials had been previously open-minded to Kessler’s ideas. In January, they adopted a resolution drawn up by Kessler that called for local government to nullify any regulations that infringe on the Second Amendment.

But on Thursday, the same officials indicated they’d had enough of their hired law man’s antics, especially after he made a video in which he shot at likenesses of two of his nemeses on the council.

The hearing earlier reportedly focused on allegations that Kessler used taxpayer money to buy tires for his own car and didn’t properly submit required crime data to state officials. 

Those were trumped-up charges, Joseph Nahas, Kessler’s lawyer, told reporters.

In a decision released Thursday, a Texas appellate court tossed the 2010 money-laundering conviction of Tom DeLay, former House majority leader. According to the decision, there was insufficient evidence for a jury to have found him guilty of illegally funneling corporate campaign money to Texas state GOP candidates. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Why a Texas court overturned Tom DeLay money-laundering conviction (+video)

By Contributor / 09.19.13

A Texas appellate court on Thursday overthrew the 2010 conviction of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R) of Texas, who was found guilty of money laundering during the 2002 election cycle.  

Mr. DeLay, known in the US House of Representatives as "the Hammer," was facing a three-year prison sentence and was out on $10,000 bail during the appeals process.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the Third Court of Appeals ruled that “the evidence was legally insufficient to support DeLay’s convictions.”

DeLay was accused of illegally routing $190,000 in corporate political contributions through the Republican National Committee, which then passed on the identical sum to seven Texas House candidates, who are barred by Texas law from accepting campaign contributions from corporations.

That election cycle, the Republican candidates took over the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction and then gerrymandered Texas congressional districts to favor the GOP. The new electoral map helped give Texas Republicans a gain of five seats in the US House.

For several years, the role DeLay played in helping the Republicans gain control of the Texas Legislature was widely viewed as his crowning triumph.

But a 2005 indictment by a Texas grand jury forced DeLay to resign his position as US House majority leader, in line with GOP House rules that an indicted leader must step down. He did not seek reelection in 2006. 

“In moving money around in order to use illegal corporate funds to elect candidates in Texas, Tom DeLay displayed a startling contempt for our laws and our democratic process. Initially, he even bragged about what he had done. He should be punished accordingly,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign-finance reform advocacy group, in a statement after Thursday’s verdict.

Opinions about DeLay's case were frequently split along party lines, with Republicans grateful for the help in regaining the Texas House and Democrats upset with the changes in Texas’ political landscape. 

Thursday’s decision carried similar political overtones: Republican Justices Melissa Goodwin, who wrote the opinion, and David Gaultney both voted to overturn DeLay’s conviction. Chief Justice Woody Jones, a Democrat, dissented. 

“We won the Super Bowl,” Brian Wice, DeLay’s appellate lawyer, said to his client. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits for audience questions in an onstage interview for the Atlantic Magazine in Washington Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Why is Mark Zuckerberg in D.C.? It's not what you might think. (+video)

By Contributor / 09.19.13

Mark Zuckerberg is set to meet with House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday, but the meeting will not focus primarily on the Internet privacy issues that have shaken Facebook or the government surveillance programs that have vexed the online industry. Rather, the pair are mostly talking immigration. 

Many Silicon Valley giants want immigration reform because it promises more high-skilled foreign workers though a revised H-1B visa program. But while a bill sponsored by the bipartisan "gang of eight" made it through the Senate in June, the House is deadlocked.

There is hope that outside bipartisan groups might help move immigration reform forward, and Mr. Zuckerberg is on Capitol Hill to add his weight. His meetings with Mr. Boehner and several other Washington lawmakers this week are to promote comprehensive immigration reform on behalf of FWD.us, a Silicon Valley-backed organization he helped to co-found. The lobbying group – which is backed by Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer and Microsoft's Bill Gates – seeks to "promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy."

Right now, FWD.us's main focus is immigration reform.

But how much clout does FWD.us have?

The group has already faced a sharp learning curve in navigating Washington politics: FWD.us came under criticism shortly after it launched for trading political ads supporting Republican causes – such as the Keystone XL Pipeline – for Republican support on immigration reform. 

A sense of mistrust also surrounds technology companies advocating for immigration reform. Increasing the number of H-1B visas they can grant could possibly take away jobs from US workers.

FWD.us has since reoriented to better address political realities, said Zuckerberg during an interview with the Atlantic in Washington. FWD.us now has three organizations: an umbrella policymaking team, as well as separate Democratic and Republican policy camps.

“There’s been a lot to debug in making this work,” Zuckerberg said.

FBI assistant special agent in charge Ricky Maxwell speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Jonesboro, Ga., where it was announced that kidnap victim Ayvani Hope Perez has been found. (John Bazemore/AP)

Abducted Georgia teen Ayvani Hope Perez reunited with family (+video)

By Staff writer / 09.18.13

A 14-year-old girl abducted from her home near Atlanta early Tuesday morning has been found safe and apparently in good health, law enforcement officials reported Wednesday. Two suspects are in custody.

The girl, Ayvani Hope Perez, was taken following what appears to have been a random home invasion in which the suspects demanded jewelry and cash. When none was found, the girl’s relatives reportedly told authorities, the suspects demanded a $10,000 – then $100,000 – ransom for Ayvani’s release.

Local police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI were involved in the search, which ended when her captors apparently abandoned the ransom plan and dropped off Ayvani in the community of Conyers, Ga., about 25 miles from her home in Ellenwood.

"She's in good health, she's being evaluated as we speak," Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter said at a press conference Wednesday. “This is a good day. This is a good day for the Perez family, but more important for Ayvani.”

The suspects, who were apprehended without incident, have been identified as Wildrego Jackson of Atlanta, and Juan Alberto Contreras-Rodriguez, a Mexican national who is being held on immigration-related charges.
 
Citing state Department of Corrections records, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Jackson was released from state prison in 2007 after serving time for several drug-related convictions. On July 19, he was released from the Fulton County Jail after being arrested on numerous charges, including aggravated stalking and theft-by-receiving.

Law enforcement authorities – some 150 of whom were involved in the search – are piecing together details about the events surrounding the abduction.

Ayvani's mother reportedly had her daughter and her 15-year-old son hiding inside the home when the break-in occurred. But the intruders were able to find them, along with the family dog, which they shot and killed, police said in a statement.

At Wednesday’s press conference, FBI Special Agent Rick Maxwell said motive for the incident has not yet been determined – specifically, whether or not the victims were known to the suspects.

“We have not determined the relationship between these individuals at this time," Special Agent Maxwell told reporters.

It’s unclear at this point how or where the suspects were found.

Maxwell also said the two suspects in custody are not the two depicted in sketches released Tuesday of the men who abducted the girl.

“We believe those two suspects in the drawings are still at large,” Maxwell said Wednesday afternoon. “Anyone with any information relating to those two suspects, we still ask that they call the same tip line that we provided before.” 

The FBI released photos of ex-Navy reservist Aaron Alexis, whom police believe was the gunman in the Washington Navy Yard shooting in Washington on Monday. Alexis was killed after he fired on a police offer. (FBI/AP)

Aaron Alexis: a history of angry acts, seeking help, feeling 'slighted' (+video)

By Chelsea B. SheasleyCorrespondent / 09.17.13

As authorities investigate how and why the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard occurred, details about Aaron Alexis, the suspected gunman, are emerging that point to a man with a history of angry acts who was seeking help through Buddhism and mental health treatment.

Here are answers to five key questions about Mr. Alexis, given what is known about him so far. 

1. What is Aaron Alexis’s history with the Navy?

Alexis was a full-time reservist in the US Navy from 2007 to 2011. He received a general discharge in January 2011 after exhibiting a “pattern of misconduct,” according to officials, who declined to provide details of his misconduct. 

While he served, Alexis did not have day-to-day contact with the Navy but was in the “ready reserve,” where he would be mobilized if called upon, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told CNN.

After his release from the Navy, Alexis found work as a military subcontractor for The Experts, a group affiliated with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services that served the Navy’s Internet system, according to USA Today. Through his work, Alexis had security clearance to access the navy yard.

2. What is his prior arrest record? Is there a Sept. 11 connection?

Before his discharge from the Navy, Alexis was arrested at least twice for weapons violations. In 2004, he was arrested in Seattle for shooting the right and left rear tires of another man’s car and firing a shot into the air with a .45-caliber pistol.

According to the Seattle police report, Alexis “stated that he perceived the victim had mocked him earlier that morning after he discovered his own vehicle had been tampered with.”

That led to what Alexis "described as a ‘black-out,’ fueled by anger," the report says. “He said he didn’t remember pulling the trigger of his firearm until about one-hour later.” 

Alexis also told police he was in New York City on 9/11 and was disturbed by the events. The Seattle police report notes that Alexis’s father, living in New York at the time of his son’s arrest, called the police detective to say “that his son had experienced anger management problems that the family believed associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He confirmed that his son was an active participant in rescue attempts of September 11th, 2001.” 

Alexis, born in the borough of Queens in 1979, would have been 22 on 9/11. Kristi Suthamtewakul, a friend from Fort Worth, Texas, told the Los Angeles Times that Alexis had “expressed anger about Sept. 11 to her, but that he was angry at terrorists."

In the end, Seattle authorities didn't pursue the matter, because the police report never reached the city attorney. "We are not able to review for possible charges because the police report didn't make it to our office," spokeswoman Kimberly Mills told the Monitor.

Typically, this is a case that would have prompted charges. "It's very likely it would have been charged," she says. "I don't know where the disconnect was," she says, adding that the police report has a notation on it that it was sent to the Seattle municipal court. Police can file traffic tickets directly with the court, but they can't file misdemeanor charges, like this one, to the court directly, she said. They are supposed to send them to the city attorney first.

Alexis was also arrested in 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas, for discharging a gun in his apartment. The bullet went through the floor and ceiling of his upstairs neighbor, who told police she felt threatened by Alexis, according to the Fort Worth police report viewed by The New York Times. Alexis had confronted this neighbor in the parking lot about making too much noise, she told police.

The Forth Worth Police Department did not press charges after Alexis told them the gun accidently discharged as he was cleaning it while cooking. The county criminal district attorney issued a statement Monday, saying “it was determined that the elements constituting recklessness under Texas law were not present and a case was not filed.” However, Alexis was asked to leave his Fort Worth apartment, and this incident in Texas played a role in his discharge from the Navy, according to a Navy official, speaking to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

3. Was Alexis receiving mental health treatment? 

US law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Alexis was dealing with mental health issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and was hearing voices in his head.

The officials said Alexis had been treated by the Veterans Administration since August for mental health problems, but that the Navy had not declared him mentally unfit. Alexis would have lost his security clearance if he had been given that classification. 

Family members also told the Associated Press that Alexis was undergoing mental health treatment.

The officials spoke anonymously because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Alexis was a heavy drinker, although his drinking was "never a problem," Oui Suthamtewakul told The Washington Post. In Texas, Alexis lived with Mr. Suthamtewakul and his wife, Kristi, in exchange for work at their Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in White Settlement.

Alexis also frequently played computer games, according to friends and associates. While living with friends in Fort Worth, he kept three computers in his room and played games “at the nighttime and all day,” driving up the electrical bills, Naree Wilton, a cousin of Mr. Suthamtewakul, told the Los Angeles Times.

4. What were Alexis's interests in Buddhism and Thai culture?

Pat Pundisto, a member of the Buddhist Temple Wat Busayadhammavanara in White Settlement, Texas, told The New York Times that Alexis dated a Thai woman and often attended Sunday services at the temple, where he intoned Buddhist chants and meditated afterward.

Ty Thairintr, a Forth Worth tooling design engineer who says he’s known Alexis for about five years, told the Los Angeles Times that Alexis planned on becoming a Buddhist monk. 

"He chanted better [in Thai] than me," he said.

"He was a very devoted Buddhist," Mr. Thairintr's wife, Sasipa, told the Times. "Buddhism teaches forgiveness, not grudges. That's why we're so shocked."

5. Was Alexis unhappy about his Navy service? 

According to some friends, Alexis was disgruntled with certain aspects of his military service. Ms. Suthamtewakul told the Los Angeles Times there was "nothing sinister about him," but that Alexis believed that Navy benefits had been withheld from him.

“He just felt slighted by what he was getting each month,” Suthamtewakul said.

Mr. Thairintr said: "He told me he believed he had superior abilities to his co-workers but he didn't get promoted."

"He complained about the rank and file not giving him respect” and felt discriminated against because he was black, Thairintr said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley speaks at the state Democratic Convention in Lowell, Mass., on July 13, 2013. After losing her 2010 bid for the US Senate in a stunning upset to Republican Scott Brown, Coakley announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014. (Michael Dwyer/AP/File)

Martha Coakley announces bid for Mass. governor, saying she learned from 2010 (+video)

By Contributor / 09.16.13

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley officially entered the 2014 race for state governor, seeking to reassure voters she had learned from her loss to Republican Scott Brown in a 2010 US Senate race.

Ms. Coakley is kicking off her campaign with an aggressive three-day bus tour of 18 cities and towns across the state.

“I’ve acknowledged that we made some mistakes on that campaign trail, and I’ve learned from that,” Coakley told supporters Monday.

Coakley fell from favor in Democratic Party ranks after she lost the Senate seat that Edward Kennedy occupied for 47 years, which subsequently cost the Democrats their 60-seat supermajority in Congress. After the January 2010 loss, Coakley was easily reelected to a second term as state attorney general later that year, but her victory was still overshadowed by her upset loss to Mr. Brown. 

In an odd way, Coakley's jarring Senate upset might actually work to her advantage: Coakley has already proved she has the ability to bounce back, says Jim Spencer, president of The Campaign Network, a Democratic political consulting firm, in an interview with the Monitor. "Candidates never learn anything from winning, they learn from losing," explains Mr. Spencer. (The Campaign Network has not come out in support of any of the 2014 gubernatorial candidates). 

"When you suffer the kind of loss that Martha did, you really have learned what kinds of mistakes not to make again," says Spencer. "She may be beginning as the most savvy, experienced candidate in the entire field." 

There are currently five other contenders for the Democratic nomination: State treasurer Steven Grossman, former Obama administration health-care official Donald Berwick, former federal and state homeland security official Juliette Kayyem, biotech executive and former Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone, and state Sen. Dan Wolf, who suspended his campaign pending discussions with the state Ethics Commission over a conflict of interest issue concerning his ownership stake in Cape Air. 

Louis DiNatale, a Democratic strategist and pollster, is more skeptical of how Coakley will be received by Democratic leadership.  

“Even though she dominates in the surveys, the Democratic activists remain concerned about her ability to perform as a candidate in the long run,’’ Mr. DiNatale told the Boston Globe. “They understand she could unravel at any moment in a tough general election race.’’

But Coakley's 2010 Senate failure was also symptomatic of an electorate that was growing increasingly frustrated with plodding economic recovery, says Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. "One of the lessons they will have learned is you have to work for it: You can't just dial it in," says Mr. Ubertaccio.

And Coakley's campaign is trying to make up for this past mistake. The candidate's video advertisement she used to kick off the campaign talks about the economy, jobs, education reform, and her 2010 loss.

"She's in a very good position," says Ubertaccio, adding that Coakley has name recognition, experience with statewide elections, and a proven ability to raise money. 

There are concerns that Coakley's 2010 loss will make donors hesitant to invest in another campaign. Coakley's campaign reported an account balance of just under $275,000 in a filing made to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the Associate Press reported. In contrast, Mr. Grossman, a former Democratic National Committee chair, has about $628,000 in campaign funds.

However, the Coakley campaign can also anticipate financial backing from Democratic women activists and fundraisers.  The Washington, D.C.-based Emily's List, whose mission is to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office, is also expected to contribute to Coakley's campaign.

The other female Democrat in the running for governor is Ms. Kayyem, who lacks the name recognition and political experience that Coakley has.

Coakley is also leading in preliminary polls: In a way, the power of name recognition – no matter the reasons behind it – could work to her advantage. Pollster David Paleologos found that Coakley fared better against the likely GOP nominee, Charles Baker, during a statewide survey of 500 voters, which was taken this summer before Coakley had officially announced her candidacy. The survey showed Coakley earned a 56 percent favorability rating, statistically tied with Brown and Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who are the two most popular politicians in Massachusetts.    

If Coakley can keep up her early momentum in the race through the February Democratic caucus, a barometer of grassroots strength, "then I think she can put to bed any lingering doubts about her ability as a candidate," says Ubertaccio. 

In the next three days, Coakley is expected to stop in Brockton, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, Barnstable, Newton, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, North Adams, Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Newburyport, Gloucester, and several other locations, according to the Boston Globe.

Democratic candidates began posturing for the gubernatorial nomination after Governor Patrick announced that he would not seek reelection in 2014.

Currently, there is only one Republican candidate: Mr. Baker, who also ran for Massachusetts governor in 2010. Patrick defeated Baker by six percentage points in the 2010 election.

Former Senator Brown, who later lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, will not run for governor, reported the Associated Press. 

The Massachusetts Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 14 , 2014, and the election is Nov. 4, 2014. 

Law enforcement personnel are seen through the gate into the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. At least one gunman opened fire inside a building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning, and officials said several people were killed and more were wounded, including a law enforcement officer. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Navy Yard shooting: Gunmen killed 12 people, 2 armed men sought

By Chelsea B. SheasleyCorrespondent / 09.16.13

UPDATE 5 p.m.

The Navy says a gunman who opened fire inside a building at the Washington Navy Yard was a full-time reservist from 2007 to 2011, says the Associated Press.  The Navy said in a release Monday that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, of Texas, left the Navy on Jan. 31, 2011, as a petty officer 3rd class. It's not immediately clear why he left.

Alexis had been working for the fleet logistics support squadron No. 46, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy says his home of record was New York City. Alexis was one of 13 people killed during the rampage.

-------

The shooting Monday morning at the Washington Navy Yard left at least 12 people dead, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said, and authorities said one gunman is dead and police are looking for two more possible gunmen.

District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier confirmed Monday that one shooter is dead, but said there are two additional gunmen that witnesses report seeing who have not been located. 

“The big concern for us right now is that we have potentially two other shooters that we have not located at this point,” Ms. Lanier said.

RECOMMENDED: Policing America

Lanier described one of the suspects as a white male, last seen at 8:35 or 8:40 a.m. in a khaki or tan military-style outfit with a handgun. She described the other suspect as a black male in an olive military outfit and with a “long gun.” She described both men as appearing to be between 40 and 50 years old.

Police do not know if the possible gunmen are members of the military, but only that they are wearing military-style apparel, Lanier said. She urged anyone with information to call 1-202-727-9099, or 1-800-CALLFBI.

The number of injuries at the Navy Yard is still unclear. At a 2 p.m. press conference Mayor Gray said there a "few" people with non-life-threatening injuries. Earlier, he said, “As far as we know, this is an isolated incident.”

One of the wounded is a D.C. police officer, who was shot during an encounter with one of the shooters, according to Ms. Lanier.

Janis Orlowski, Chief Medical Officer at the Washington Hospital Center said they’ve received three wounded, including a police officer and two female civilian employees. The three are in critical condition, but are conscious and talking, she said. They are expected to recover, and are not talking about the incident, she said.

Ms. Orlowski said that she was told to expect more injured patients.

President Obama commented on the shooting at a previously scheduled press conference on the US economy: “We still don’t know all the facts,” he said. "We do know several people have been shot and some have been killed. We’re confirming another mass shooter and today it happened at a military installation in our nation’s capital.

Obama said the attack targeted both civilians and military personnel.

“We’ll do everything in our power to ensure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” he said.

The scene is still an active investigation. The FBI is the lead agency on the investigation, and is working with D.C. Metro Police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services, according to a Navy statement

"I'm deeply shocked and saddened by the shooting this morning at the Navy Yard," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I have complete confidence in our first responders, and I continue to be completely focused on this very difficult situation."

Employees were ordered to “shelter-in-place” on the scene. No other navy installations have been ordered for a lockdown, a Navy spokesperson told the Washington Post.

The Washington D.C. Police Department arranged for family members and Navy shipyard workers to reunite at the Washington Nationals Stadium Parking Lot B, which is about a mile away from the yard.

The shooter fired three shots at 8:20 a.m. inside the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building at the Washington Navy Yard, the Navy said.

The Navy confirmed one injury in its first press release at 8:53 a.m. 

At 9:42 a.m. the Navy reported several people were injured in the shooting, but did not release a specific count.

About 3,000 people work at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters (NAVSEA), which accounts for one quarter of the Navy’s budget. NAVSEA is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands and is responsible for engineering, building, buying, and maintaining the Navy’s ships, submarines, and combat systems, according to a Navy statement.

In total, NAVSEA employs over 50,000 civilian, military, and contract support personnel in 34 locations across the United States and Asia, according to their website.

The Washington Navy Yard, where NAVSEA headquarters is located, is the Navy’s oldest shore establishment, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Established in 1799, the Navy Yard is now a ceremonial and administrative center for the Navy.

The Navy Yard is a secure military facility, with guards at gates and a large wall surrounding the building, according to The New York Times. It's located in southeastern DC, about 1-1/2 miles away from the Capitol building and 3-1/2 miles from the White House.

The US Capitol Police heightened security as a precautionary measure, according to the Washington Post.

Flights at Reagan International Airport were briefly grounded, and six DC public schools, four charter schools, and one administrative building were put on lockdown in response to the shooting.

The Pentagon is also increasing its security “as a proactive, precautionary measure,” spokesman George Little said in a statement.

RECOMMENDED: Policing America

Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood in Boulder, Colo., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, The National Weather Service says up to 2 inches of rain could fall Sunday, creating a risk of more flooding and mudslides. (Jeremy Papasso/The Daily Camera/AP)

Colorado flood: There’s more where that came from (+video)

By Staff writer / 09.15.13

It continued to rain in Colorado Sunday, sending more water rushing down already-swollen streams, threatening more homes and business, and making search and rescue efforts difficult. Officials say some rivers could continue to flood until Tuesday.

Four people are confirmed dead and two more are presumed lost after their homes washed away.

Hundreds more were unaccounted for, although that number was expect to drop as telephone service was restored.

Flash flood warnings were in place in all or portions of the following counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Denver, reports the Denver Post. All of northeast Colorado remains under a flood warning.

"The situation has deteriorated since early this morning," Andrew Barth, spokesman for Boulder County Emergency Management, told the newspaper. "There's a heavy, heavy fog and rain is coming down hard. Standing water is rising because the ground is saturated."

On Sunday, fog grounded the helicopters that had evacuated about 1,500 people Saturday.

"Residents should prepare to evacuate for what may be an extended period of time, as road and infrastructure repairs could take several months," according to a news release from officials in the community of Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. "Residents must understand that with winter weather impending, staying at home in this area is an extremely dangerous decision and emergency services will not be available to them after evacuation.

Boulder remained a refuge for evacuees from the more isolated mountain towns. These refugees filled a church, a YMCA and a high school and crashed on couches around town. Meanwhile, water continued to back up in some parts of town and a water treatment plant remained down Sunday.

But the town was bouncing back. Libraries and recreation centers have reopened, and classes at the University of Colorado are expected to resume Monday.

President Obama has declared a major disaster in Colorado, authorizing Federal funds for flood victims.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, according to a White House statement. Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Boulder County.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Colorado Monday to help coordinate a federal response.

Three federal urban search and rescue teams are on the ground to support search and rescue operations in flooded and isolated areas, the White House reported Sunday. Two additional federal urban search and rescue teams  were expected to arrive in Colorado Sunday afternoon, and three more federal urban search and rescue teams have been placed on alert.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring state of New Mexico, another round of rain moved across the state on Sunday, renewing the threat of heavy runoff from already saturated soils and flooding in low areas as residents faced a major cleanup effort from damage left in the wake of days of relentless rain.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for much of central and northern New Mexico. The flooding killed at least one person – a man whose car was washed into a ravine and carried nearly a mile from the road.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville (left) is congratulated by Senators Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (right) and Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, after the Senate approved Alejo's immigrant driver's license bill at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. (Rich Pedroncelli/ AP Photo)

California to allow driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

By Contributor / 09.13.13

Reversing course, California Gov. Jerry Brown said early Friday he would sign a bill into law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain a state driver’s license.

After last-minute changes to Assembly Bill 60 (AB-60), the California Senate and Assembly voted to pass the bill late Thursday night.  

“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Governor Brown said in a statement issued after midnight following the passage of AB-60. “Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due."

California has the largest immigrant population in the United States, and a recent study from the University of California's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration estimates that about 7 percent of California residents – more than 2.6 million people – are in the country illegally. 

Nine states and the District of Columbia currently issue illegal immigrants driver's licenses. Federal law requires that the licenses clearly indicate that the driver is undocumented. 

Under AB-60, the licenses would have the initials DP (driver's privilege), rather than DL (driver's license), and would state that the document "does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit." California's Department of Motor Vehicles will determine what type of documentation will be required to obtain a driver's license.

Some undocumented residents are already eligible for licenses under California state law, if they qualify for temporary federal work permits.

The original bill as proposed by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D) of Watsonville would have granted licenses to immigrants who could prove they paid taxes or worked in the United States. However, Mr. Alejo conceded this point late Thursday, reassuring Brown that California would adhere to federal procedures for granting licenses to illegal immigrants and subsequently winning the governor's backing.

Brown's support helped propel the bill through the California Legislature.

"In a perfect world we would have no mark on our driver's license," said California Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) of Bell Gardens as reported in the LA Times. But, he added, "there are hardworking immigrants who need driver's licenses to do the basic things many of us take for granted."

A bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to become lawyers also made it through the California legislature on Thursday. 

Earlier in the week, Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella, another of the AB-60's supporters in the California Senate, called on Republicans in Congress to pass broader immigration reform, Reuters reported. A group of 16 California Republican state senators joined a national push to demand a path to citizenship in the United States for illegal immigrants.

A landmark plan for immigration overhaul passed through the US Senate in June, but will face extreme difficulty getting through Congress. The legislation would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Robel Phillipos leaves federal court Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Boston after he was arraigned on charges of hindering the investigation of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Phillipos pleaded not guilty to the charges. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

Boston Marathon bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends plead not guilty

By Contributor / 09.13.13

Three friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of impeding the federal investigation into the bombing which killed three people and injured 264 in April.

According to the indictment filed Aug. 29, the three 19-year-olds, Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos, school friends of Tsarnaev's at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, all helped remove a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop from Tsarnaev's dorm room, after he texted Kadyrbayev a request to "go to my room and take what's there." 

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were roommates who allegedly decided together to pitch the objects into a dumpster, and then watched its contents disappear into a garbage truck the next morning. According to the Boston Herald, both face up to 25 years in prison or deportation to their native Khazakstan, for destroying evidence in order to hinder the FBI's investigation. Phillipos, an American, faces up to sixteen years in prison for two counts of lying to investigators.

Prosecutors told AP that they planned to present about 20 witnesses in a trial that could take two weeks. A trial date has not been set.

Meanwhile, the in-laws of Tsarnaev's late brother Tamerlan, who died in a police shootout after the bombing, answered questions Thursday before a grand jury in Boston. The lawyer representing the family of Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, declined to tell CNN about the hearing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty, continues to await trial.

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