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Nation & World briefs: 11-7-17

Updated: 
November 8, 2017 - 12:05am

Texas church gunman once escaped from mental health center

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — The gunman who carried out the massacre of 26 people at a small-town Texas church briefly escaped from a mental health center in New Mexico in 2012 and got in trouble for bringing guns onto a military base and threatening his superiors there, police reports indicate.

Devin Patrick Kelley was also named as a suspect in a 2013 sexual assault in his hometown of New Braunfels, about 35 miles from the scene of the church attack.

The records that emerged Tuesday add up to at least three missed opportunities that might have offered law enforcement a way to stop Kelley from having access to guns long before he slaughtered much of the congregation in the middle of a Sunday service. Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders and crashed his car.

The Air Force confirmed Tuesday that Kelley had been treated in the facility after he was placed under pretrial confinement stemming from a court-martial on charges that he assaulted his spouse and hit her child hard enough to fracture the boy’s skull.

Involuntary commitment to a mental institution would have been grounds to deny him a weapon provided that records of his confinement were submitted to the federal database used to conduct background checks on people who try to purchase guns.

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Pentagon has known of crime reporting lapses for 20 years

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type of information the Air Force didn’t report about the Texas church gunman who had assaulted his wife and stepson while an airman.

The Air Force lapse in the Devin P. Kelley case, which is now under review by the Pentagon’s inspector general, made it possible for him to buy guns before his attack Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed, including multiple members of some families. About 20 other people were wounded.

New details emerged, meanwhile, about his troubled Air Force career. In 2012, several months before his conviction in the domestic violence case, Kelley escaped from a civilian mental health center where he had been placed by the Air Force for treatment, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. She confirmed a Houston TV station report that was based on an El Paso, Texas, police report. Stefanek said privacy laws prohibited her from saying what Kelley was being treated for.

KPRC-TV also reported that the police officers who detained Kelley at an El Paso bus terminal after his escape were told he previously had been caught sneaking firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he was stationed, and that he planned to carry out death threats against his military superiors. Stefanek said she could not confirm those details.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and unsatisfied by its plans to investigate the matter.

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Schiff to AP: Trump a graver threat than Russian meddling

WASHINGTON — The House’s top Democrat investigating Russia’s election meddling on Tuesday declared that in many ways President Donald Trump is “far more grave a threat” to American democracy than the Kremlin.

Rep. Adam Schiff cited a litany of actions by Trump, from appointing Cabinet officers with “direct conflicts of interest” and goals of dismantling their agencies to limiting Muslim immigration and discrediting federal judges.

As for the president’s own possible jeopardy, Schiff said Trump is trying to disparage the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller and the congressional panels that are investigating possible coordination between his campaign and Russia in the election that put him in the White House.

“I do feel our Democracy is under threat,” Schiff said. Trump’s approach to governing, he said, “is a serious problem and in many respects far more grave a threat than anything coming from outside the country.”

Idea at the heart of GOP tax plan: ‘trickle-down’ economics

WASHINGTON — The House Republicans’ tax-cut plan springs from a core argument: What’s good for big business and the moneyed elite is inevitably good for the economy and everyone else.

Their plan would slash corporate tax rates, end inheritance taxes for the ultra-rich and create new tax advantages for business owners. To help pay for some of those breaks, the plan would end tax deductions for college loans, high medical bills, moving costs and state and local income taxes.

It would also add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

Taken as a whole, the tax plan would drastically lighten the burden on the powerful groups that Republican leaders say would strengthen the economy while eliminating some benefits for the middle class they’ve called their top priority.

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Anti-gay-marriage clerk to seek re-election

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples will run for re-election in 2018, facing voters for the first time since her protest against gay marriage in rural Appalachia provoked a national uproar.

Kim Davis could face a familiar foe: A gay man to whom she refused to issue a marriage license said he’s seriously considering running against her.

“I think I could win,” said David Ermold, an English professor at Pikeville University who was among the many who sued Davis in 2015. “I don’t think that she has learned anything from the experience at all. I really, truly think that she feels like she is right. I really don’t think she cares at all about what civil rights are.”

Mat Staver, founder of the Florida-based law firm Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis during the monthslong controversy, confirmed Tuesday that she will seek a second term. He said Davis was unavailable for comment because of a medical procedure.

“She loves her job and she loves the people,” Staver said. “I’m sure (the election) will probably have more attention because of who she is, but you know she doesn’t have any major concerns about it.”

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Soaring Silicon Valley costs put homes out of reach for poor

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In the same affluent, suburban city where Google built its headquarters, Tes Saldana lives in a crowded but tidy camper she parks on the street.

She concedes it’s “not a very nice living situation,” but it also is not unusual. Until authorities told them to move, more than a dozen other RVs filled with people who can’t afford rent joined Saldana on a tree-lined street in Mountain View, parked between a Target and a luxury apartment complex.

Homeless advocates and city officials say it’s outrageous that in the shadow of a booming tech economy - where young millionaires dine on $15 wood-grilled avocado and think nothing of paying $1,000 for an iPhone X - thousands of families can’t afford a home. Many of the homeless work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many.

Across the street from Saldana’s camper, for example, two-bedroom units in the apartment complex start at $3,840, including concierge service. That’s more than she brings home, even in a good month.

Saldana and her three adult sons, who live with her, have looked for less rustic accommodations, but rents are $3,000 a month or more, and most of the available housing is distant. She said it makes more sense to stay in the camper near their jobs and try to save for a brighter future, even if a recent city crackdown chased them from their parking spot.

By wire sources

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