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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Three dead after Wildwood crash

Friday, 16 August 2013 04:32 Published in Local News

   Three people are dead and a fourth is injured after a convertible crashed into the deck of a Wildwood home last night.  The crash happened just before 10:00 p.m. on Homestead Manor Drive near Babler State Park.  

   Monarch Fire Protection District spokesman Roger Herin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that all of the victims were in their late teens or early twenties.  Two were pronounced dead at the scene.  A third died after being airlifted to a hospital.  The fourth victim suffered minor injuries.  

   Two people who'd been sitting on the deck when it was hit were not hurt.  

   Herin says the cause of the crash isn't known, but speed may have been a factor.  

As crisis deepens, Egypt braces for more violence

Friday, 16 August 2013 02:30 Published in National News

   CAIRO (AP) — Egypt is bracing for more violence after the Muslim Brotherhood called for nationwide marches after Friday prayers and a "day of rage" to denounce this week's unprecedented bloodshed in the security forces' assault on the supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president that left more than 600 dead.

   The government has authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions while the international community has urged both sides to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.

   At least 638 people were confirmed killed and nearly 4,000 wounded in Wednesday's violence, sparked when riot police backed by armored vehicles, snipers and bulldozers smashed the two sit-ins in Cairo where ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters had been camped out for six weeks to demand his reinstatement.

   It was the deadliest day by far since the 2011 popular uprising that overthrew autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.

   The Health Ministry said that 288 of those killed were in the largest protest camp in Cairo's Nasr City district, while 90 others were slain in a smaller encampment in Giza, near Cairo University. Others died in clashes that broke out between Morsi's supporters and security forces or anti-Morsi protesters elsewhere in the Egyptian capital and other cities.

   Violence spread on Thursday, with government buildings set afire, policemen gunned down and scores of Christian churches attacked. An angry crowd stormed the governor's office in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the pyramids. State TV blamed Morsi's supporters for the arson and broadcast footage showing firefighters evacuating employees from the larger building of Giza's government offices.

   As turmoil spread, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions. Egypt's military-backed government also pledged to confront "terrorist actions and sabotage" allegedly carried out by Muslim Brotherhood members.

   The Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on its encampments and the arrest of many of its leaders, called for a mass rally Friday in a challenge to the government's declaration of a monthlong state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

   Also Thursday, the U.N. Security Council urged both the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood to exercise "maximum restraint" and work toward national reconciliation.

   In Cairo, weeping relatives filled the mosque-turned-morgue near the gutted pro-Morsi protest camp in Nasr City, spilled into the courtyard and the streets. Inside, the names of the dead were scribbled on white sheets covering the bodies, some of them charred, and a list with 265 names was plastered on the wall. Heat made the stench from the corpses almost unbearable as the ice brought in to chill the bodies melted and household fans offered little relief.

   Many people complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury their dead, although the Muslim Brotherhood announced that several funerals had been held Thursday.

   A woman cradled the head of a slain man in her lap, fanning it with a paper fan. Nearby, an anguished man shouted, "God take revenge on you el-Sissi!" a reference to the powerful military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.

   Slumped over the body of his brother, Ihab el-Sayyed said the 24-year-old was getting ready for his wedding next week. "Last time I heard his voice was an hour or two before I heard of his death," he said, choking back tears.

   Elsewhere on Thursday, a mass funeral was held in Cairo for some of the 43 security troops authorities said were killed in Wednesday's clashes. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, led the mourners. A police band played solemn music as fire engines bore the coffins draped in white, red and black Egyptian flags in a funeral procession.

   Wednesday's deadly crackdown drew widespread condemnation from the Muslim world and the West.

   President Barack Obama canceled joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises scheduled for next month, although he gave no indication that the U.S. planned to cut off its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the country. The U.S. administration has avoided declaring Morsi's ouster a coup, which would force it to suspend the military aid.

   "While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said, speaking from his weeklong vacation in Massachusetts.

   Egypt's interim government issued a late night statement saying the country is facing "terrorist actions targeting government and vital institutions" by "violent militant groups." The statement expressed "sadness" for the killings of Egyptians and pledged to work on restoring law and order.

   The statement also warned that Obama's position "while it's not based on facts can empower the violent militant groups and encourage them in its anti-stability discourse."

   The biennial Bright Star maneuvers, long a centerpiece of the deep ties between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries, have not been held since 2009, as Egypt grappled with the fallout from the revolution that ousted Mubarak. Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 during Egypt's first democratic elections.

   Attackers also set fire to churches and police stations across the country for a second day Thursday.

   In the country's second-largest city of Alexandria, Islamist protesters exchanged gunfire with an anti-Morsi rally, leaving scores injured, witnesses and security officials said. Attempts to storm police stations in the southern city of Assiut and northern Sinai city of el-Arish left at least six policemen dead and others injured.

   Ishaq Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said his group had documented at least 39 cases of violence against churches, monasteries, Coptic schools and shops in different parts of the country on Wednesday.

   Fearful of more violence Friday, some main streets were closed and people in many neighborhoods set up cement blocks and metal barricades. Residents checked IDs in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution when vigilante-style groups set up neighborhood watches to prevent looting and other attacks.

   The turmoil is the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi's supporters and the interim leadership that took over the Arab world's most populous country following a July 3 coup. The military ouster came after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand Morsi step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.

   Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location ever since. Other Brotherhood leaders, including several arrested Wednesday, have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.

   The Brotherhood has spent most of its 85 years as an outlawed group or enduring crackdowns by successive governments. The latest developments could prompt the authorities to once again declare it an illegal group and force it to go underground.

Thousands honor Elvis Presley at Graceland vigil

Friday, 16 August 2013 02:20 Published in National News

   MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Elvis Presley fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to Graceland on Thursday to pay their respects to the rock n' roll icon with a solemn candlelight vigil on the 36th anniversary of his death.

   Thousands of Presley fans carried lit candles as they walked silently through the Mediation Garden at Graceland, Presley's longtime Memphis home. The garden is the location of Presley's grave and also is the spot where his mother, father and grandmother are buried.

   Wreaths of flowers and pictures of Presley encircled the grave, while shadows cast by the glowing candles danced along the stone wall surrounding the garden. Soft music played in the mild night, as some in the procession bowed their heads or cried quietly.

   Each year, fans of Presley's music and movies come to Memphis for Elvis Week, the weeklong celebration of his life and career. Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, of a heart attack after battling prescription drug abuse.

   The vigil is the highlight of Elvis Week, which this year featured a listening party at Stax Records for the recent release of the three-CD box set "Elvis at Stax." Performances by Presley tribute artists and a screening of the "Aloha from Hawaii" television program from January 1973 are other featured events of the weeklong reunion, which wraps up Saturday.

   Police estimated 35,000 people would attend the vigil. Last year, an estimated 75,000 people descended on Graceland for the event. Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla Presley and his daughter Lisa Marie Presley spoke at last year's event, the first time they appeared together at the vigil since it began.

   Christine Jeffords made her fifth trip to Graceland with her husband Jon and three other members of a fan club called the Elvis Midwest Mafia, whose members are from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. They wore red T-shirts with Presley's image emblazoned on a king of hearts playing card on the front.

   The back of their shirts had a quote that gives one reason why fans have made repeated trips to Memphis for Elvis Week and the vigil: "If you have a friend who is an Elvis fan, you have a friend for life."

   "Where else can you go where you meet people from year to year who have the same passion?" said Christine Jeffords, a pre-school teacher from Hartford, Wis.

   Jeffords, 52, smiles when she talks about buying her first Presley 45, "Let Yourself Go," which she bought as a young teen with money she had saved from babysitting jobs. She said the vigil is a way to remember not only his career, but also his giving personality and ability to make people happy with his music.

   "If you were sad or happy or whatever, he was such a big part of your life," Jeffords said. "I always felt in my heart that he was a good person, a beautiful person."

   The vigil started as an informal gathering the year after his death. It has blossomed into a major tourist event. Fans begin lining up along the outer wall of Graceland about 12 hours before the vigil, and many will stay until the early morning hours of the next day.

   The event also has become an international affair and a tribute to the Tupelo, Miss., native's worldwide popularity, hosting fans from Australia, Brazil, England and Japan and other foreign countries.

   Miguel Salinas Caceres, 53, came with other members of a fan club whose members are from Chile. Making his first visit to Graceland, Salinas Caceres recalled making scrapbooks of newspaper article clippings about Presley when he was a teen.

   The articles and scrapbooks were a way he and his family followed and learned about Presley because they could not afford a record player or even the records themselves. He said his family used to pay a neighbor who owned a television so that they could watch Presley movies and other TV programs at the neighbors' house.

   "For a person who is an Elvis fan and has the chance to come to the place he lived, it's emotional for me," said Salinas Caceres, of Santiago, Chile. "It's hard to believe that I'm here on the street where he walked, the street corners where he stood, the restaurants where he ate."

   His fellow fan club member Rodrigo Gandarillas, a native Chilean who now lives in Houston, is on his second visit to Graceland. An Elvis tribute artist himself, the 39-year-old Gandarillas said the vigil is a way to give thanks for the enjoyment Presley has given him.

   "The thing that impacts me the most about the vigil is the large amount of people from different countries, different races and different languages who understand 'the King's' musical message," Gandarillas said.

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