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Oscar Pistorius Convicted of Murder 15-year Prison Sentence by Appeals Court

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Oscar Pistorius

JOHANNESBURG — Oscar Pistorius was convicted of murder on Thursday by a South African appeals court that described the once-glittering story of the double-amputee Olympian and Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed in his home in 2013, as “a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.”

The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s conviction on the less serious charge of manslaughter, adding another twist to a case that riveted people around the world because of its gripping saga of a celebrity athlete’s plunge from grace by his own hand.

“The accused ought to have been found guilty of murder on the basis that he had fired the fatal shots with criminal intent,” Justice Lorimer Eric Leach said in the courtroom in Blomefontein, in which Steenkamp’s mother, June, sat impassively. Pistorius was not there.

The murder conviction means Pistorius will almost certainly go back to jail, where he spent one year of a 5-year prison sentence before being put under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria in October.

The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years, but exceptional circumstances in the case of the former track star, including time already served, his disability and status as a first-time offender, could mean he’ll get a lower sentence.

Sentencing is up to the North Gauteng High Court, where Pistorius was tried. South African media said Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over the original trial, will handle the matter. No sentencing date has been set.

The National Prosecuting Authority will wait for word from the trial court about possible sentencing dates, said Luvuyo Mfaku, a spokesman for the authority.

The Pistorius family said in a statement: “The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward.”

Johann Engelbrecht, a criminal lawyer who is not involved in the Pistorius case, said it is doubtful that the former athlete’s lawyers could challenge the murder conviction by appealing to the Constitutional Court. He speculated that prosecutors would want the sentencing process to proceed swiftly rather than let Pistorius remain under house arrest for an extended period.

Pistorius, a multiple Paralympic champion, became the first amputee to run at the Olympics and the able-bodied world championships. He was known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber running blades.

“This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions,” Leach said while delivering the ruling on behalf of the five-judge appeals court.

“A young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete,” he said. “In doing so he becomes an international celebrity. He meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model. Romance blossoms and then ironically, on Valentine’s Day, all is destroyed when he takes her life.”

Steenkamp, a model who appeared in a television reality show, had planned to give a speech touching on domestic abuse and family relationships at a school on the day she died. In a tweet the day before she died, she wrote: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???”

Leach witheringly described Pistorius’ often tearful trial testimony as “vacillating and untruthful” and said Masipa, the judge who convicted him of manslaughter, committed an “error in law” by incorrectly applying a legal principle called “dolus eventualis.”

Under that concept, a person can be convicted of murder if he or she foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway.

Pistorius, 29, insisted he shot Steenkamp by mistake, thinking there was an intruder behind the door of a toilet cubicle in his home. The prosecution said Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument.

Leach said that regardless of who Pistorius said he thought was behind the door, he should have known someone could be killed if he fired.

There was initial confusion in the court when the judge preceded his reading of the Pistorius ruling by saying an appeal had been dismissed. He was referring to a separate legal case, but some news organizations incorrectly reported that Pistorius had not been convicted of murder. The Associated Press did not make the error. It was unknown if Pistorius was watching the TV broadcast or monitoring the initial news reports online that suggested he would serve no more prison time.

There was no sign of Pistorius outside the home of his uncle, Arnold. As the judge began to read the decision, broadcast live on TV, the uncle was seen rushing into the house. Later, the uncle drove off in a car.

Reeva Steenkamp’s father, Barry, told South African television channel ANN7 that the judgment was fair.

“Let us now all get on with our lives,” he said. His voice breaking with emotion, he said of his daughter: “I’m sure she’ll be able to rest as well now.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

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McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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