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Dylann Roof gets death sentence for Charleston massacre

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Dylann Roof was sentenced to death on Tuesday night for killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

The twelve-member jury – consisting of 10 women and two men – reached the unanimous sentence after deliberating for three hours. In December, the same jury found Roof guilty on all 33 counts of federal hate crimes for planning to kill nine and attempting to kill three others.

In his six-minute closing argument, the 22-year-old white supremacist showed no remorse for the massacre. While attempting to persuade the jury to spare his life, he claimed that he did not kill the victims out of a hatred for black people.

“I think it’s safe to say nobody in their mind wants to go into a church and kill people,” he told the jury. “In my [FBI confession] tape I told them I had to. But it’s not true: I didn’t have to. No one made me. What I meant was: I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I have to do it.”

“Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I’m filled with hatred has no idea what hate is,” he continued, “they don’t know anything about hate.”

Prosecutors said Roof planned the shooting for months by writing a racist manifesto, specifically targeting the predominantly black church, and purchasing a .45 caliber Glock pistol with 88 rounds on his birthday. They explained that 88 is the numerical symbol for “Heil Hitler”.

“We learned about the defendant’s cold and calculated choices that caused those losses to happen,” prosecuting attorney Jay Richardson told the court, according to The Post and Courier. “His racist ideology the acquiring of that ideology, that’s part of his preparation, that’s part of what led him to walk in that door at Mother Emanuel on June 17 (2015).”

“He spent years acquiring this deep hatred,” he continued. “He ‘had to do it.’ Those are the words of an extraordinary racist.”

In the sentencing phase of the trial, Roof represented himself and denied psychological incapacity, refused to call witnesses and present any evidence.

The victims – Tywanza Sanders, 26; Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;  Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Reverend Daniel Simmons, 74; and Susie Jackson, 87; – were remembered in court by photos and video recordings.

Roof is also facing state murder charges and it is unclear if local prosecutors will change their plans after Tuesday’s ruling. The state trial is currently scheduled to begin on 17 January.

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U.S. diplomats in Cuba were attacked by a ‘sonic weapon’

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A group of American diplomats in Havana, Cuba have suffered severe and unexplained hearing loss over the past year, which U.S. officials believe was caused by a covert and advanced sonic device. Something’s afoot in Havana. Reports are coming down the grapevine claiming that five US diplomats and at least one Canadian envoy have fallen ill, all suffering from acute hearing loss, headaches, and nausea. The cause? A covert sonic device – an acoustic weapon – that’s being reportedly used to terrorize the diplomatic staff.

The severity of some of the diplomats’ symptoms has forced them to cancel their Cuba tours early and return to the U.S. for treatment, the Associated Press reports. But what exactly is a sonic device, how common are they, and how much damage can they actually cause? Here’s what to know so far.

Months of investigation revealed several facts about the onset of the symptoms. They always appeared suddenly, not gradually, and only took place inside Cuban government-owned properties – normally the residences of the diplomats themselves.

The specificity of the targets and the hearing loss associated with the illness has led both the FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service to conclude that a powerful acoustic device was the trigger.

However, U.S. officials who spoke anonymously to the AP said that the hearing loss was caused by a device deployed either inside or near the diplomats’ residences. The devices emitted a sound that was not audible to human ears, they added.

So what exactly is an acoustic weapon? There’s been no documented use of such a device for the purposes of attacking diplomatic personnel, so if the American investigators are right, then this would be the very first deployment of one.

That would indicate it was most likely an infrasonic or ultrasonic weapon. Infrasonic weapons can cause physical pain without detection, though they usually target the entire body rather than just the eardrums. The damage caused by acoustic weapons can vary from minor irritation to death, theoretically speaking. The effect can depend on the type of weapon and the range involved. Ryan Littlefield, who published a paper with the University of Portsmouth on the topic, says the fatality of such a device is unproven.

Police have used infrasound for riot control around the world, using it trigger vertigo, imbalance and other medical disruptions, according to Littlefield. In other cases, it’s been shown to cause vomiting and defecation. In still others, the technology has been used to disrupt targets’ hearing.

At this stage, it’s deeply unclear which is more plausible – but the point is that “silent” acoustic weapons do exist, and they certainly could have been deployed in Havana.

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Russian surveillance plane soars over the Pentagon

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A Russian surveillance plane soared through secure airspace over Washington on Wednesday, presumably collecting intelligence as it traveled near the Pentagon, the Capitol and other government buildings, two U.S. officials said.

The Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft made the flight through the Treaty on Open Skies, which Russia, the United States and 32 other nations have signed. The treaty established criteria under which countries can make unarmed observation flights over the soil of other treaty members in an effort to promote transparency and international arms control efforts, according to the State Department.

The Capitol Police issued an alert Wednesday that warned that an “authorized low-altitude aircraft” would enter restricted airspace between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The alert did not state who owned the plane, but said it “will be large and may fly directly over the U.S. Capitol.”

“This flight will be monitored by U.S. Capitol Police and other federal government agencies,” the alert concluded.

A Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, confirmed that the flight alluded to was Russian and operating in the area through the treaty.

The flight, first reported by CNN, is expected to be followed by another one Wednesday evening that flies over President Trump’s property in Bedminster, N.J., where he is vacationing. According to the treaty guidelines, U.S. airmen are aboard the Russian jet observing when an Open Skies flight occurs.

But Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has argued that Russia may be taking advantage of the treaty. He told the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities last year that he would “love” to deny future Russian flights over the United States through Open Skies.

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