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Five found dead in Phoenix standoff

Written By doni icha on Jumat, 17 April 2015 | 20.24

Members of the Phoenix Police Department stand out in front of a home where authorities say five people were killed inside after a shooting
Police tried to communicate with the family - thought to be from Morocco - in Arabic with a megaphone

An hours-long standoff with police in Phoenix, Arizona, has ended with police finding five bodies inside a home.

Police believed the shooting deaths late on Thursday stemmed from a dispute about a family business.

The three male victims were brothers from Morocco and the fourth victim was their mother. The final victim was the wife of one of the men, police said.

Four other people fled the home during the standoff, police said.

Police used a megaphone to try to communicate with the occupants of the home, addressing the family in Arabic.

The Arizona Republic reported that one neighbour said the family owned a transportation service, but another referred to them as "invisible" until Thursday.

The victims were not identified by name but were from the same family
The victims were not identified by name but were from the same family

The standoff in the residential neighbourhood was shown live on TV with SWAT teams and other police agencies converging on the area.

"Our dispatcher could hear shots fired in the background while that call was coming in,'' police spokesman Sgt Trent Crump said. "A caller had been able to escape the home at that point, get out and start to give us information."


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Han Solo in new Star Wars trailer

Fans have been given a first glimpse of Han Solo in the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Harrison Ford, who plays space smuggler Solo, last appeared in a Star Wars film more than 30 years ago when Return of the Jedi was released in 1983.

The footage from the new film was included in a trailer shown at an official fan convention in California.

The Force Awakens is set for release on 18 December and is the first in a new series of the sci-fi franchise.

The event was also streamed live on the internet.

Ford, 72, is still recovering after crashing his plane onto a golf course and was unable to attend the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

Original trilogy actors Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, who also return after three decades as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in The Force Awakens, were on stage to answer fans' questions.

Hamill paid tribute to the franchise's supporters. "Over the years, all my entire life, I've felt such love from you," he told the thousands in the audience.

"You're more than just fans. You're family."

John Boyega as Finn
John Boyega plays Finn, one of the leading characters in The Force Awakens
Kylo Ren
The trailer also shows the film's villain Kylo Ren
New character
There was more footage in the new trailer, including close-ups of new characters
Millennium Falcon
The Millennium Falcon made another appearance in the new trailer - after it was shown in the first teaser trailer

Hamill and Fisher were joined by other cast members, including the two young British actors who play central roles in the film, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.

The relatively unknown Ridley, speaking for the first time about her role in Star Wars as a scavenger called Rey, described her as "very solitary until she meets another character and an adventure begins".

She added: "[I] cannot wait to show you guys what we've done."

John Boyega said he was excited but also nervous. "I was scared to tell my parents that I'd got the part of Finn", he admitted.

He added he had only told them once the official casting announcement had been made.

The film's director JJ Abrams was also on the special panel which launched the four-day Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

He said he had had a lot of fun making the movie as well as feeling a huge amount of pressure in "honouring the legacy" of the Star Wars series.

"Though there are moments of sheer horror, the opportunity far outweighs the risk," Abrams said.

Disney bought Lucasfilm, the company behind the Star Wars films, in 2012.

The first teaser trailer for the The Force Awakens was released in November.

The film was shot last year at Pinewood Studios near London.


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Tribeca festival begins in New York

Robert De Niro
De Niro created the festival to help regenerate downtown New York following the 2001 terror attacks

New York's Tribeca Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday with the world premiere of a documentary about Saturday Night Live.

Live in New York! explores 40 years of the comedy sketch show and its impact on US culture.

The festival, founded by actor Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, has now been running for 14 years.

It closes on 26 April with a remastered print of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, marking the film's 25th anniversary.

De Niro, who starred in the original 1990 film, will be joined by fellow cast members at the screening.

Other festival highlights include a screening of Harold Lloyd's New York-set silent classic Speedy, with a live soundtrack provided by DJ Z-Trip; Arnold Schwarzenegger in the premiere of zombie drama Maggie - described by the Terminator star as "the most human role you've ever seen me take on"; and Britain's Simon Pegg in the screwball romantic comedy Man Up.

There will also be documentaries on the National Lampoon films (Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon) and the international premiere of Michael Winterbottom's The Emperor's New Clothes, made in conjunction with Russell Brand.

Jane Rosenthal/Lorne Michaels
Jane Rosenthal and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels attend the festival's opening night

There will also be talks with filmmakers including George Lucas, Christopher Nolan and Bennett Miller.

On Thursday, Mary J Blige will follow the screening of music documentary The London Sessions with a live performance.

"You're always nervous. It's putting on a show; it's having all these people into your house. We work for a year on it," Rosenthal told the Hollywood Reporter at Vanity Fair's annual Tribeca Film Festival party.

"I think being a little nervous is always good. You can never be too confident about anything."

Rosenthal said she was most looking forward to Monty Python's 40th anniversary celebration, which will see screenings of classic Python films and bring together, once again, the five surviving members of the comedy troupe.

"I'm actually really excited about seeing all the Pythons together, having just loved those movies," said Rosenthal. "So I'm excited to see what they're going to do after their film."

For his part, De Niro told reporters he just had fun..."showing up".


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'Success kid' raises cash for dad

GoFundMe page
The campaign hit its fund-raising target in less than a week

Sam Griner has gone from success kid to success kidney.

As a toddler, Sam was snapped on a beach with a determined expression and one fist clenched - an image that spawned the well-known "success kid" meme.

The image has been used widely online by people seeking to celebrate happy moments, small victories and good days.

Now eight, Sam's net fame is being used to raise cash for a kidney transplant for his father.

Sam's father Justin fell ill in 2006 and suffered total kidney failure in 2009. He has been on dialysis ever since. Mr Griner's mother died from the same disease.

In a week, the fund-raising campaign has won pledges of more than $93,000 (£63,000) - far more than the $75,000 needed to pay for the medical procedure.

Health insurance is covering some of the costs of Mr Griner's treatment but the family needs extra cash to pay for the operation and care to help him recover afterwards.

The Griner family are also using the fund-raising page to look for people who are a good tissue match and willing to donate a kidney.

In an interview with the Daily Dot, Sam's mother said a transplant was the only way to save her husband's life.

Ms Griner said she was initially sceptical about using her son's internet fame to raise money but realised it could be a good way to highlight the cause.

"We're the parents of 'Success Kid' for goodness' sake," Ms Griner told the news site. "If anyone understands the power, the mass, and goodwill of the internet, it's those of us lucky to experience it daily."

Other net famous people have also used their appearance in memes to raise cash for good causes. Laina Morris, better known as the face of the overly-attached girlfriend meme, has used her YouTube channel to highlight charities needing cash.


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US troops to train Ukraine army

US troops arrive in Lviv, Ukraine
The US paratroopers arrived in Lviv (pic: US Army website)

About 300 US paratroopers have come to western Ukraine to train with Ukrainian national guard units, the US Army says.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that the move "could seriously destabilise the situation" in Ukraine.

He said the US military presence "is a long way from helping towards a settlement of the conflict", Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The US and its Nato allies accuse Russia of sending soldiers and weapons to the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin again dismissed the Western charges on Thursday, telling millions of Russians that "there are no Russian troops in Ukraine".

The rebels in the east signed a ceasefire agreement with the Ukrainian government in February, but recently the number of violations has escalated.

There has been further shelling on the outskirts of rebel-held Donetsk and in the village of Shyrokyne, near the southern port city of Mariupol.

Ukraine's national guard has been involved in the fighting. It includes various volunteer units who are now being integrated with the Ukrainian regular army.

The US Army said the US paratroopers were part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The training will take place at Yavoriv, near Lviv in western Ukraine. The US forces will begin training three battalions of Ukrainian troops over the next six months, the statement said.

The brigade trained with Ukrainian forces in international exercises in Ukraine last September.

Map

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Vatican ends crackdown on US nuns

Pope Francis meeting members of the LCWR on 16 April 2015
Pope Francis met with members of the LCWR on Thursday

The Vatican has ended its controversial control of the main organisation representing US nuns.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious was under close supervision from Rome after being accused of undermining Catholic teaching.

The Vatican said the group's focus was now Christ and faithful teaching.

The sisters were accused of promoting "radical feminist themes", but they argued that they were simply trying to do their work with the poor.

After a meeting with Pope Francis, a delegation from the group said it was deeply heartened by his appreciation of the sisters' lives and ministry.

"Our conversation allowed us to personally thank Pope Francis for providing leadership and a vision that has captivated our hearts," they said.

LCWR building in Maryland
LCWR building in Maryland

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took over the LCWR in 2012, before Pope Francis's papacy.

The group was accused of taking positions that subverted Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality.

Many US conservatives believed it was not focusing enough on issues such as euthanasia and abortion.

The Vatican called for a five-year overhaul that sought to fix a "grave" doctrinal crisis, and Rome appointed a bishop to supervise the rewriting of the LCWR's statutes. A final report on the overhaul was accepted by the Vatican on Thursday.

In a final joint report, the congregation and the LCWR said that the new statutes demonstrate the sisters' focus on Jesus Christ and being faithful to Church teaching.

The report also said an advisory committee would be established to ensure the LCWR's publications were in line with church doctrine.

The takeover as well as a separate Vatican investigation into the quality of life of US nuns, has deeply wounded the US sisters.

The investigation concluded in December, and was sweeping in its praise of the sisters' work.

"Anything coming out of the Vatican this morning is nothing other than a fig leaf because they can't say 'oops' in Latin," Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University, said.

About 80% of the 57,000 Roman Catholic nuns in the US are represented by the LCWR.


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New York approves slavery monument

Illustration of the slave market
A caption below this illustration reads: "New York Slave Market about 1730."

The New York City Council has approved a monument recognising the contributions of slaves to the city's founding and economy.

The marker will be placed in the Wall Street area, about a block from where the city's first slave market stood.

When the council approved the market in 1711, almost 1,000 of the city's 6,400 people were black, according to Columbia University.

The monument is expected to be unveiled this summer, officials told the BBC.

The new marker will join 38 other markers - mostly commemorating success in the financial and construction industries - in lower Manhattan, WNYC reported.

Officials told the local radio station that the sign memorialising the contributions of slaves would be revealed on 19 June, a day known as "Juneteenth", which marks the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the confederate south.

But an official with Councillor Jumaane Williams' office told the BBC the timing for unveiling and the exact location have not been confirmed.

One factor that may push the unveiling later into the summer is that the sign's text has not been approved, the official said.

He also said that the exact location for the sign had yet to be settled, and that there were concerns about a large amount of scaffolding in the area obscuring the memorial's prominence.

Councillor Williams, who has championed the memorial for several years, is "so excited about this and has been working on it for years," according to the spokesman.

An African Burial Ground in Manhattan
An African Burial Ground memorial already exists in Manhattan

In the early 18th Century, slaves in New York worked in households, farms, and as a traders and dockworkers.

The New York City Council passed a law on 13 December 1711 requiring all slaves "be hired at the Market house at the Wall Street Slip".

A National Museum of African American History and Culture is being built in Washington but campaigners have long argued there should be a national memorial to slavery also.


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Man 'planned to kill US soldiers'

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, left, speaks with his defence attorney, Sam Shamansky 25 February 2015
Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud was arrested by local officials in February

A man who travelled to Syria to fight with an al-Qaeda affiliate has been charged over alleged plans to carry out a terror attack on the US military.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23, allegedly gained training with al-Nusra Front and was instructed by a radical cleric to carry out an attack in the US.

He is accused of telling another man he wanted to kill American soldiers "execution-style" at a military base.

He faces charges of material support of terrorism and making false statements.

"Identifying and neutralising the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters who return to the United States is one of the National Security Division's highest priorities," Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement.

It is the latest example of US officials bringing charges against those allegedly helping Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups.

Mr Mohamud, from Ohio, left the US in April 2014 shortly after becoming a naturalised citizen, travelling to Syria after a flight to Istanbul, according to prosecutors.

Nusra Front soldiers in the Idlib (December 2014)
The Nusra Front is widely seen as one of the most effective rebel groups operating in Syria

His brother, Aden, had been killed while fighting with the group in Syria.

Mr Mohamud allegedly told two unnamed people when he returned to the US in June 2014 he wanted to attack a military base or prison, killing three or four people "execution style".

He told one person he had received weapons, explosives and hand-to-hand combat training, and the other he had gone through physical fitness and guarded a camp at night, according to the indictment.

He sent videos of himself in Syria to an unnamed person. In one video, he pointed to a gun in a holster on his hip and in another, he stood in front of a white house with a black flag on it.

Mr Mohamud was initially arrested in February in Columbus by local law enforcement and transferred into federal custody on Thursday after charges were brought by a grand jury.


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Wikileaks publishes Sony documents

A billboard advertising the film

Wikileaks has published hundreds of thousands of emails and documents from a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment last year.

The archive apparently includes Sony conversations with Downing Street and with Hollywood figures.

In November, the entertainment company suffered a cyber-attack weeks before releasing The Interview, a film criticised by the North Korean regime.

Sony said it "strongly condemns" the Wikileaks release.

"We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks' assertion that this material belongs in the public domain,'' the company said in a statement.

The Wikileaks dump includes more than 170,000 emails and over 20,000 documents.

After November's hack, an unknown organisation published the documents online, but it was not in an easily-searchable form.

Julian Assange, the founder of the website, justified the publication by saying the documents show the inner functioning of a multinational company and are "at the centre of a geo-political conflict".

The attack came just weeks before Sony was set to release the film about a fictional American plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea denied involvement in the attack but praised it as a "righteous deed".

The Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London

In December, a group calling itself the "Guardians of Peace" threatened 9/11-type attacks on cinemas showing the movie, spurring Sony to cancel the film's release.

Days later, amidst growing public pressure to show the film, Sony bosses appeared to change their minds and said they would give it a limited Christmas Day release.

In January, the US imposed new sanctions on North Korea in response to the attack. And, in April, President Obama ordered the creation of a programme that would allow the US government to sanction foreign hackers.

Mr Assange is currently seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after two women in Sweden accused him of rape and sexual assault.


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Kansas bans leisure items on welfare

Tickets to swimming pools and water parks have been added to list of items Kansans on welfare can not buy
Tickets to swimming pools and water parks have been added to list of items Kansans on welfare cannot buy

The US state of Kansas has tightened its rules out how welfare recipients can spend their aid, banning the purchase of concert tickets, lingerie and dozens of other leisure items.

US Governor Sam Brownback signed the law on Thursday, saying it would encourage people to get back to work.

Other states prevent welfare recipients from buying alcohol and cigarettes with government aid.

But the revised Kansas list appears to be the most extensive in the US.

Senate Minority Leader Democrat Anthony Hensley called it "a punitive and highly judgmental piece of legislation" while national commentators such as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart have ridiculed the law.

But other critics question whether such restrictions can be enforced.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of the advocacy group Kansas Action for Children, said the list had attracted national attention because "it feels mean-spirited."

"It really seems to make a statement about how we feel about the poor," she said.


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