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Thursday, 20 February 2014 09:47

Lawmaker says Olympic prizes shouldn't be taxed

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker says Olympic athletes who win medals shouldn't have to pay state tax on their awards.
State Sen. Julie Morrison is sponsor of legislation approved by a Senate committee Wednesday that would waive the tax.
Morrison is a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Deerfield who says she represents many of Illinois' Olympic athletes. She says Olympic athletes proudly represent Illinois and the U.S. and "we should honor them for their commitment."
 Morrison says exempting Illinois' taxes on the prizes is "one small way to show our appreciation."
Olympians who win a gold medal also receive $25,000. Silver medalists win $15,000, while bronze medalists earn $10,000.
The legislation also applies to Para-Olympians.  It could be considered by the full Senate as early as Thursday.
Published in Local News
   SOCHI, Russia (AP) - A Russian human rights activist says two members of the punk band Pussy Riot have been detained near the Olympics in downtown Sochi.
   Semyon Simonov says he was with Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at the time. He says the two women have been accused of theft, and says several other activists were also detained by police.
   Alekhina and Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison but were released in December. They were convicted of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow's most prominent cathedral in opposition to President Vladimir Putin's government.
   Alekhina and Tolokonnikova recently visited the U.S. to take part in an Amnesty International concert.
 
Published in National News
Thursday, 06 February 2014 00:40

Early start Thursday for Sochi Olympics events

   SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Competition at the Sochi Olympics was officially starting Thursday, 32 hours before the opening ceremony.
   Early starts are needed with 12 men's and women's medal events added since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
   Men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying runs - without American star Shaun White, who withdrew Wednesday - were beginning 10 a.m. (0600 GMT) at X-Treme Park in the mountains above Sochi.
   Women's qualifying runs were following in the afternoon, and women's moguls qualifying was scheduled to start freestyle skiing events at 6 p.m. (1400 GMT).
   Men's slopestyle and women's moguls are among the first medals to be awarded Saturday.
   Down in Sochi, the new team figure skating competition begins 7.30 p.m. (1530 GMT) at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
   The men's short program is to be followed by the pairs.
 
Published in National News
   MOSCOW (AP) — Moscow police say an armed teenager burst into his school and killed a security guard and a teacher before being taken into custody.
   Police say a police officer who responded to an alarm Monday was wounded. No injuries have been reported among the children who were in the school at the time.
Published in National News

   COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - USA Swimming will choose between Omaha, Neb., San Antonio and St. Louis as the site for the 2016 Olympic swimming trials.

   The national governing body says it will announce the host city on Saturday.

   Omaha has hosted the last two trials, in 2012 and 2008. Last year's eight-day event was attended by more than 164,000 fans and the meet was broadcast live in prime time on network television. Two temporary pools were built inside the CenturyLink Center for the event.

   In 2004, the trials were held in Long Beach, Calif., the first time they were held outdoors in temporary pools.

   In January, USA Swimming said six cities were bidding to host the trials. Former host Indianapolis, along with Greensboro, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., were eliminated after an evaluation team from USA Swimming, along with an outside member of the group's board, visited each location.

 

Published in Around Town

   COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - USA Swimming will choose between Omaha, Neb., San Antonio and St. Louis as the site for the 2016 Olympic swimming trials.

   The national governing body says it will announce the host city on Saturday.

   Omaha has hosted the last two trials, in 2012 and 2008. Last year's eight-day event was attended by more than 164,000 fans and the meet was broadcast live in prime time on network television. Two temporary pools were built inside the CenturyLink Center for the event.

   In 2004, the trials were held in Long Beach, Calif., the first time they were held outdoors in temporary pools.

   In January, USA Swimming said six cities were bidding to host the trials. Former host Indianapolis, along with Greensboro, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., were eliminated after an evaluation team from USA Swimming, along with an outside member of the group's board, visited each location.

 

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 01:27

EXPERTS: Pistorius violated basic firearms rules

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Even if Oscar Pistorius is acquitted of murder, firearms and legal experts in South Africa believe that, by his own account, the star athlete violated basic gun-handling regulations and exposed himself to a homicide charge by shooting into a closed door without knowing who was behind it.

Particularly jarring for firearms instructors and legal experts is that Pistorius testified that he shot at a closed toilet door, fearing but not knowing for certain that a nighttime intruder was on the other side. Instead of an intruder, Pistorius' girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was in the toilet cubicle. Struck by three of four shots that Pistorius fired from a 9 mm pistol, she died within minutes. Prosecutors charged Pistorius with premeditated murder, saying the shooting followed an argument between the two. Pistorius said it was an accident.

South Africa has stringent laws regulating the use of lethal force for self-protection. In order to get a permit to own a firearm, applicants must not only know those rules but must demonstrate proficiency with the weapon and knowledge of its safe handling, making it far tougher to legally own a gun in South Africa than many other countries where a mere background check suffices.

Pistorius took such a competency test for his 9 mm pistol and passed it, according to the South African Police Service's National Firearms Center. Pistorius' license for the 9 mm pistol was issued in September 2010. The Olympic athlete and Paralympic medalist should have known that firing blindly, instead of at a clearly identified target, violates basic gun-handling rules, firearms and legal experts said.

"You can't shoot through a closed door," said Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, a regulatory body for South African firearms instructors. "People who own guns and have been through the training, they know that shooting through a door is not going to go through South African law as an accident."

"There is no situation in South Africa that allows a person to shoot at a threat that is not identified," Pretorius added. "Firing multiple shots, it makes it that much worse. ...It could have been a minor — a 15-year-old kid, a 12-year-old kid — breaking in to get food."

The Pistorius family, through Arnold Pistorius, uncle of the runner, has said it is confident that the evidence will prove that Steenkamp's death in the predawn hours of Feb. 14 was "a terrible and tragic accident."

In an affidavit to the magistrate who last Friday freed him on bail, Pistorius said he believed an intruder or intruders had gotten into his US$560,000 (€430,000) two-story house, in a guarded and gated community with walls topped by electrified fencing east of the capital, Pretoria, and were inside the toilet cubicle in his bathroom. Believing he and Steenkamp "would be in grave danger" if they came out, "I fired shots at the toilet door" with the pistol that he slept with under his bed, he testified.

Criminal law experts said that even if the prosecution fails to prove premeditated murder, firing several shots through a closed door could bring a conviction for the lesser but still serious charge of culpable homicide, a South African equivalent of manslaughter covering unintentional deaths through negligence.

Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood, who specializes in firearm law, said South African legislation allows gun owners to use lethal force only if they believe they are facing an immediate, serious and direct attack or threat of attack that could either be deadly or cause grievous injury.

According to Pistorius' own sworn statement read in court, he "did not meet those criteria," said Hood, who is also the spokesman for the South African Gun Owners' Association.

"If he fired through a closed door, there was no threat to him. It's as simple as that," he added. "He can't prove an attack on his life ... In my opinion, at the very least, he is guilty of culpable homicide."

The Associated Press emailed a request for comment to Vuma, a South African reputation management firm hired by the Pistorius family to handle media questions about the shooting.

The firm replied: "Due to the legal sensitivities around the matter, we cannot at this stage answer any of your questions as it might have legal implications for a case that still has to be tried in a court of law." Vuma said on Monday it referred the AP's questions to Pistorius' legal team, which by Tuesday had not replied.

Culpable homicide covers unintentional deaths ranging from accidents with no negligence, like a motorist whose brakes fail, killing another road user, "to where it verges on murder or where it almost becomes intentional," said Hood. Sentences — ranging from fines to prison — are left to courts to determine and are not set by fixed guidelines.

The tough standards for legally acquiring a gun were instituted in part because of a wave of weapons purchases after the end of racist white rule in 1994, said Rick De Caris, a former legal director in the South African police. Under South Africa's white-minority apartheid regime, gun owners often learned how to handle firearms during military service. Many of the new gun owners had little or no firearms training, which brought tragic results, De Caris said.

"People were literally shooting themselves when cleaning a firearm," said De Caris, who helped draft the Firearms Control Act of 2000.

Prospective gun owners must now take written exams that include questions on the law, have to show they can safely handle and shoot a gun and are required to hit a target the size of a glossy magazine in 10 of 10 shots from seven meters (23 feet), said Pretorius of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council.

In his affidavit, Pistorius said he wasn't wearing his prosthetic limbs "and felt extremely vulnerable" after hearing noise from the toilet.

"I grabbed my 9 mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom, I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch-dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed," he testified.

Legal experts said they are puzzled why Pistorius apparently didn't first fire a warning shot to show the supposed intruder he was armed. Also unanswered is why, after he heard noise in his bathroom that includes the toilet cubicle, Pistorius still went toward the bathroom — toward the perceived danger — rather than retreat back into his bedroom.

"He should have tried to get out of the situation," said Hood, the attorney.
Published in National News
Could St. Louis host the Summer Olympics for the first time since 1904?

Mayor Francis Slay was one of 35 mayors who received a letter asking if they are interested in assembling a bid for the 2024 games. There is a stumbling block though, St. Louis does not have enough hotel rooms. The host city is required to have 45,000 hotel rooms, but St. Louis has on 38,000.

It is too early to get overly excited, Mayor Slay has meetings planned with CVC before deciding if the city will consider a bid.
Published in Local News
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - South African police say the lead investigator in the case against Olympian Oscar Pistorius faces attempted murder charges in an October 2011 shooting.

Police Brig. Neville Malila said Thursday that detective Hilton Botha is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder. Malila says Botha and two other police officers fired shots while trying to stop a mini-van in the incident.

On Wednesday, the prosecution case against Pistorius began to unravel with revelations of a series of police blunders and Botha's admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian's claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally. Pistorius faces a charge of premeditated murder.
Published in National News
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - Police say they found two boxes of testosterone and needles in the bedroom of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian who has been charged with murder in the shooting of his girlfriend.

Detective Hilton Botha made the revelation Wednesday in testimony at the bail hearing for the athlete charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The discovery raises the possibility that the double-amputee Olympian and Paralympian might have been using performance-enhancing substances.

Pistorius became the first Paralympian runner to compete at the Olympic Games in London last year.

Pistorius, 26, has insisted he shot the 29 year old Steenkamp by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in his gated and guarded luxury complex in the capital, Pretoria.
Published in National News
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