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Seven dead including gunman in 'mass murder' California shooting | World | The Guardian

Seven dead including gunman in ‘mass murder’ California shooting | World | The Guardian

• Seven injured, one life-threateningly, in Friday night incident

• University: ‘several students taken to local hospitals’

• Attorney says family of film director believe son responsible

Seven people have been killed in a shooting near a college campus in California, in what authorities described as “premeditated mass murder”. Seven more people were injured, one with injuries police said were life-threatening and required surgery.

The gunman, who police said was one of the people killed, attacked at approximately 9.27pm on Friday night, driving a black BMW near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in the Isla Vista neighbourhood. The identities of the victims were not immediately released.

Alan Shifman, an attorney for a Hollywood director, Peter Rodger, said on Saturday the family believed his son, Elliot, was responsible for the shooting. Shifman told the Associated Press the family had not yet seen his body, but they had been told he was killed and believed he killed six people.

Shifman said: “The Rodger family offers their deepest compassion and sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy. We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain, and our hearts go out to everybody involved.”

Earlier the Santa Barbara county sheriff, Bill Brown, who said the name of the suspected gunman would not be released, pending notification of relatives, confirmed that police were investigating a video posted on YouTube. He said: “It would appear that [it] is connected.”

The video, entitled Elliot Rodger’s Retribution and published on Friday, showed a young man who said he was a 22-year-old virgin, complaining that women had rejected him.

"I will have my revenge against humanity," he said, vowing to kill students and Isla Vista residents. "I will punish all of you for it."

The account that posted the video contained 20 clips, including the titles “Why do girls hate me so much?”,“Life is so unfair because girls don’t want me” and “My reaction to seeing a young couple at the beach, Envy”.

Shifman said the Rodgers family called police several weeks ago after being alarmed by YouTube videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people”. Police interviewed Elliot Rodger and found him to be a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human”, Shifman said.

Shifman added that police did not find a history of guns, but did say Rodger “didn’t have a lot of friends”.

Earlier, Brown described the gunman as “severely mentally disturbed”, called the incident “the work of a madman” and added that “a lot more information will come out that will give a clearer picture of just how disturbed this individual was”.

Brown said police believed the suspected gunman acted alone, and that about 10 minutes elapsed between the first 911 calls and the suspected gunman being found dead in his car.

On Saturday morning, the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) released a statement. It said: “We have been notified that several of our students were taken to local hospitals last night … Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those affected.”

The university said it was making counselling services available and had set up emergency housing.

The county sheriff’s office said it was investigating “approximately nine different crime scenes”.

Witnesses interviewed by local television stations reported seeing the car speeding through the streets as the gunman fired from it. Brown confirmed that the gunman exchanged fire with sheriff’s deputies in two separate gunfights, before crashing into a parked car.

The suspect was found dead of a gunshot wound in the car, from which authorities recovered a semiautomatic handgun. Brown said he did not know if the suspect had been shot by deputies, or if he had killed himself.

One student told KEYT-TV he saw shots fired from the car, fatally striking one woman and critically injuring another. “I heard shots, scream, pain,” Michael Vitak said.

Another, visibly shaken student told the station she was approached by the driver of a black BMW who flashed a handgun and asked: “Hey, what’s up?”

The student, who did not provide her full name, said thought he was carrying an airsoft gun and kept walking. She said seconds later, she felt something buzz by her head and quickly realised they were bullets.

Robert Johnson, a 21-year-old UCSB student, said the car drove past him and that he heard “popping noises” that he mistook for firecrackers or a car backfiring.

"Then the sound came again, and by that point it had pulled up in front of a convenience store deli, and someone in the car was firing into a crowd of about eight, 10 people that were gathered in front of the store," he said.

"Everyone that was being fired upon, they all jumped and scrambled to run inside the store.”

The car had darkly tinted windows and the occupant was not visible, Johnson said.

The county sheriff’s statement said: “The shootings began at approximately 9.27pm on 23 May when reports of shots fired in the Isla Vista area were called in to the Santa Barbara county emergency communications centre. Sheriff’s deputies responded and found several victims suffering from gunshot wounds.

“At approximately 9.33pm, six minutes after the initial call was received, the suspect engaged a group of responding deputies with gunfire. The deputies returned fire and the suspect fled in his vehicle.

“Seconds later the suspect was again spotted by another deputy and another exchange of gunfire occurred. The suspect fled down Del Playa Drive and eventually crashed into a parked vehicle.”

Isla Vista, a small community next to UC Santa Barbara’s campus, is home to 23,000 people. The area has a reputation for excessive partying.

Obama administration sued by veterans over military sexual assault | World | The Guardian

Obama administration sued by veterans over military sexual assault | World | The Guardian

Veterans groups sued the US Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday on behalf of thousands suffering from PTSD tied to military sexual assault who they say are denied disability claims as a result of discrimination by the agency every year.

Nearly one in three women is raped during her service and more than half experience unwanted sexual contact, according to the suit, filed by the Service Woman’s Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America. These assaults result in “devastating long-term psychological injuries, most notably Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, according to the suit. It notes that such sexual violence against women is more likely to cause PTSD than any other trauma, including combat.

Yet, for veterans whose PTSD stems from their military sexual trauma, the VA both imposes a greater burden on them to prove their claims and denies them such claims at a greater rate than other PTSD claimants, the suit says.

A six-year veteran of the Coast Guard, who was raped in her first year of service at the age of 23, said: “Even though they found my statements to be ‘compelling and believable,’ they said my own testimony and corroborating statements from my family was not enough to prove that I was raped.”

In a statement read out during a press call about the lawsuit, the survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The VA also claimed that I did not have PTSD, even though I was undergoing treatment for PTSD at the VA itself and with private practitioners.”

She said she still lived with the trauma every day.

From 2009 to 2012, PTSD claims related to military sexual trauma (MST) were approved 16-30% less than other PTSD claims, according to figures obtained by SWAN through Freedom of Information requests and litigation.

“The VA knows the current process makes veterans who’ve been harmed by military sexual harassment and assault jump through more hoops than other PTSD claimants to apply for and receive PTSD disability benefits. But they refuse to change their regulations,” said Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network executive director and former Marine Corps captain. “The result of this discrimination is that survivors of military sexual harassment and assault are denied life-saving benefits and critical income to support themselves and their families.”

Military leaders have recognised that sexual assault in the military is an “epidemic” and Congress has taken steps to introduce new regulations to combat it. The latest figures show that 26,000 reports of unwanted sexual contact were made in 2011-2012, 52% from men.

To receive benefits, veterans must prove their PTSD or disability is service-related.

The VA has recognised the difficulty of providing a service connection in other cases, and has altered rules accordingly. It has softened the evidentiary requirements for veterans experiencing combat and fear-related PTSD, for prisoners of war and for Vietnam veterans suffering from herbicide exposure. For them, a service connection has been, according to the suit, “rightfully assumed”.

The suit, filed in the US court of appeals in Washington, DC says, that military sexual trauma survivors are less likely to have documentary evidence, due to underreporting of in-service sexual trauma. Additionally, until December 2011, US Department of Defense policy required restricted reports of MST to be destroyed after only five years, and sexual harassment reports after only two.

“Even when evidence is available, VA frequently fails to give it adequate weight” the suit says.

Bhagwati said that, victims of military sexual assault are betrayed repeatedly, by the sexual assault, the disbelief they meet from colleagues and the third time by the VA.

“The VA is where hope goes to die as far as many of these veterans are concerned” she said.

Every year, 4,000 claims – half of the 8,000 sexual trauma-related PTSD claims submitted – are rejected, according to Yale Law School’s legal services clinic, which filed the action on behalf of the veterans.

The current rules also discriminate on the basis of gender, the suit says. Women are discriminated against because they are sexually assaulted at disproportionately higher rates than men in the military, it says. Men are also discriminated against. In 2011, for example, VA granted nearly 49% of PTSD claims from female survivors, but only 37% of claims from male survivors.

On June 27, 2013, SWAN and VVA submitted a petition to the VA under the Administration Procedure Act, (APA) asking for the rules to be altered for MST victims seeking compensation. But the VA ignored the petition, and has failed to respond to the proposed rule, “in a timely and well reasoned manner”, the groups say. This violates the APA. The suit claims that the VA knows its rules are discriminatory but it has failed to act and has requested that the court compel it to enact the proposed changes.

SWAN said it first became aware of denials of claims for MST-related claims for compensation in 2010, then filed for Foia requests for data. They had to litigate both of the requests.

A spokesman for the VA said they were unable to comment on any pending litigation. An emailed statement said: “Meeting the needs of Veterans who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma is of the highest importance to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The department is working very hard to ensure that these claims are adjudicated compassionately and fairly, with sensitivity to the unique circumstances presented by each individual claim.”

It said that the VA had altered its regulations in 2002 to allow more liberal evidentiary standards for PTSD due to MST. VA regulations makes clear that evidence from other sources, such as statements from family members, may corroborate the veterans account of the incident, it said. A training programme was established in 2011 for claims specialists to help them distinguish indicators of PTSD stressors resulting from sexual trauma.

Brazil’s World Cup Raises Fear of Rampant Child Prostitution |

Brazil’s World Cup Raises Fear of Rampant Child Prostitution |

A favela in Manaus, Brazil, on November 27, 2013.

Amanda sits curled up on the sofa watching cartoons on television. She will soon turn 14, but her youth belies her past. The young girl has suffered two abortions already, the result of exchanging unprotected, adolescent sex for a pack of cigarettes or a couple of dollars. “My life was complicated. I was on the streets and taking drugs,” she says.

Poverty in the favelas of the northern Brazilian city of Recife was the main driver for a life in prostitution. “I lived with my grandmother because my mom couldn’t provide for me. My grandmother also looked after my other siblings. She made me go out and sell gum on the streets, to help her provide for us all.” This was around the age of five. “I was in so much danger, exposed to so much, all because of money.”

Women Die Badly on TV

Manic Pixie Dead Girl: Why I’m Done With TV Shows | The Nation

I’m done with television dramas. I don’t say this lightly—I’m a tremendous TV fan. When my daughter was in the hospital for two months, my husband I binged watched Friday Night Lights every night to keep our minds busy. I revisit old favorites like Buffy and Battlestar Galactica when I’m bored. I am obsessed with Scandal. I love TV. But I can’t bear to watch another female character get hurt.

In Steubenville Rape Case, a Lesson for Adults

In Steubenville Rape Case, a Lesson for Adults

A year ago this week, Michael McVey, the superintendent of schools in Steubenville, Ohio, sat in a conference room down the hall from his office and said he knew none of the details of Aug. 11, 2012, the night a 16-year-old girl was raped by two Steubenville High football players at a series of parties on a hot summer night.

Nope, he said, he didn’t know much, aside from the rumors that had been swirling around the football-crazy town for months. He told me and a colleague that he had not spoken with any of the students thought to be involved in the event because it hadn’t taken place on school grounds or during the school year. Besides, he said, he usually let the football coach take care of that sort of thing.

Basically, he was saying, it was none of his business. So he stayed out of it.

That all changed drastically Monday, when Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, made it McVey’s business.

McVey was one of four adults charged with crimes this week as a result of an investigation into the Steubenville rape case, in which the star quarterback and his favorite wide receiver were convicted of raping a teenager who had been too drunk to resist them. Other Steubenville athletes had videotaped the event or had taken photos of it. Several even sent those photos to friends and posted images from the night on Twitter. But none alerted the police.

Even if the latest indictments do not produce convictions, DeWine’s aggressive stance is an important moment. By holding adults accountable, prosecutors might persuade school administrators and coaches to make it their business to tell the police when they hear students or athletes have done something illegal. And maybe the police will be more diligent about investigating such complaints.

In Steubenville, the victim’s parents eventually came forward with evidence that pushed the authorities to begin an inquiry, but even then, many of the people in town refused to tell investigators what they knew.

McVey — who told me he had never seen any information about the rape on social media, though it was still available on the Internet as we spoke — is facing several felony charges, including obstructing justice and tampering with evidence, as a result of a grand jury’s inquiry into a possible cover-up of the rape. One of those charges is related to the case of a 14-year-old girl who told police she was raped by Steubenville baseball players in April 2012. No charges were filed.

The events involving Steubenville athletes led to a host of other charges: A former football coach was indicted on several misdemeanor counts, including allowing underage drinking and making false statements to public officials, and an elementary school principal and a wrestling coach were indicted on charges of failure to report child abuse or neglect.

Yet another adult, the school district’s director of information technology, was indicted last month on obstruction, perjury and tampering charges.

Of course, the two football players in the case are the ones ultimately responsible for their actions, but it’s not as simple as it seems. Someone provided the alcohol to underage students that fueled the entire evening. Some parents were naïve enough, or permissive enough, to let it all happen under their noses. In the aftermath, some coaches and school officials decided that the reputation of the school and the football team should trump public safety. Every adult who heard the rumors of the rape and didn’t report them to the police was complicit in covering it up.

Now some of those people, McVey included, could pay for those decisions, as they should. Teenagers do not operate in a vacuum. Adults must take responsibility for watching over them or, at the very least, try to right a wrong after the fact. But many of the adults I spoke to in Steubenville feigned ignorance about the rape, including the high school’s principal and football coach, or blamed the victim for what happened.

Robert D. Laurino, the first assistant prosecutor in Essex County, N.J., knows firsthand what can happen to a community when it closes up to try to protect its own. He was a prosecutor in a 1989 case in Glen Ridge, N.J., in which a group of high school athletes gang raped a mentally disabled girl in the basement of one of their homes. Rumors of the rape spread across the town, but it took weeks for anyone to report the crime to the police.

The delays in the Glen Ridge case were similar to what happened in the Penn State child sexual abuse case, and it seems to be what happened in Steubenville, Laurino said. People who should have known better turned a blind eye or didn’t want to be responsible for tainting an athletic program or a community, or embarrassing a player.

Laurino, like DeWine, thinks adults should be taken to task for that. When teenagers behave badly, it is the adults who sometimes have to protect a community’s children from themselves. Maybe the threat of incarceration — which is what those indicted in the Steubenville case are facing — will persuade other adults to take that role more seriously.

“It would definitely send a message,” Laurino said.

But maybe not.

High school athletes being accused of sexual assault isn’t a new phenomenon. A year after the Steubenville case became public, an eerily similar event put Maryville, Mo., in the national news. And those are only two high-profile cases we know about, since many events most likely go unreported. But whenever a new one makes headlines, we realize how little has changed.

The Glen Ridge rape happened nearly a quarter-century ago, but about 10 years after the town had faded from the headlines, Laurino said he received a call from Sheila Byron-Lagattuta, the lead investigator in the case.

She told him about a Halloween show that had been held at Glen Ridge High School, in which one student had dressed up as Barbie, another as Ken. In their skit, Ken pretended to molest Barbie in front of a packed auditorium.

What did the teachers and school administrators do? Nothing, Laurino was told. The adults in the room simply walked out, passing up a golden opportunity to teach an auditorium full of teenagers what it means to be respectful, to press upon them a sense of morality.

“Instead of stopping it,” Laurino said, “they just turned away.”

In Ohio, the adults have been forced — again — to look. Maybe this time, everyone will learn a lasting lesson.

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