Las Vegas massacre probe turns to gunman’s girlfriend ahead of Trump visit

Las Vegas massacre probe turns to gunman’s girlfriend ahead of Trump visit

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – The quest by police to comprehend why a retiree shot 58 people to death in Las Vegas has turned to the gunman’s girlfriend, who has flown back to the United States from the Philippines facing investigators’ questions about what she knew of his motives.

Stephen Paddock, who killed himself moments before police stormed the hotel suite he had transformed into a sniper’s nest on Sunday night, left no clear clues as to his reasons for staging the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

But law enforcement authorities were hoping to obtain some answers from the woman identified as Paddock’s live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo called a “person of interest” in the investigation.

Danley boarded a Philippine Airlines passenger jet in Manila, where she had traveled to before the shooting rampage, for a non-stop flight to Los Angeles International Airport, landing there as scheduled on Tuesday night.

A police official in Manila, the Philippines capital, and a law enforcement official in the United States, both speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Danley was being met by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Los Angeles.

The U.S. source said Danley was not under arrest but that the FBI hoped she would consent to be interviewed voluntarily.

Investigators were examining a $100,000 wire transfer Paddock sent to an account in the Philippines that “appears to have been intended” for Danley, a senior U.S. homeland security official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The official, who has been briefed regularly on the probe but spoke on condition of anonymity, said the working assumption of investigators was that the money was intended as a form of life insurance payment for Danley.

Danley’s return to the United States is the latest development in a case which has baffled investigators for its lack of any apparent motive by the killer. It comes ahead of a condolence visit by President Donald Trump to Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Trump, who strongly supported gun rights during his bid for the White House, now confronts for the first time as president the tragic aftermath of deadly firearms violence that has routinely claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.

On Tuesday, he referred to Paddock as “a sick man, a demented man,” and in response to renewed calls for tougher gun control measures, said, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

MONEY TRAIL TO PHILIPPINES

In Las Vegas, police acknowledged being stymied in their initial attempts to determine what drove Paddock, 64, to assemble an arsenal of high-powered weapons in a 32nd-floor hotel suite and unleash a barrage of gunfire onto an crowded outdoor concert below.

Investigators hope Danley may shed some additional light on the carnage, carried out by an individual with no criminal record, no known history of mental illness and no outward signs of social disaffection, political discontent or extremist ideology.

Danley, an Australian citizen reported to have been born in the Philippines, had been sharing Paddock’s condo at a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Las Vegas, according to police and public records.

The homeland security official said U.S. authorities were eager to question Danley, who described herself on social media websites as a “casino professional,” mother and grandmother, about whether Paddock encouraged her to leave the United States before he went on his rampage.

“He sent her away so that he can plan what he is planning without interruptions, in that sense I thank him for sparing my sister’s life, but that won’t be to compensate the 59 people’s lives,” two of her sisters told Australia’s Seven Network television.

Danley’s sisters, whose full identities were shielded by the television station, said that Paddock bought her a ticket to the Philippines.

“No-one can put the puzzles together. No-one except Marilou, because Steve is not here to talk anymore. Only Marilou can maybe help,” they said.

Marilou Danle. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/via REUTERS

Danley arrived in Manila on Sept. 15, more than two weeks before the mass shooting in Las Vegas, then flew to Hong Kong on Sept. 22 and returned in Manila on Sept. 25. She was there until she flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday night, according to a Philippines immigration official.

A Philippine police source said authorities in Manila were told that Paddock used identification belonging to Danley, who has an Australian passport, when checking into the Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

Both the Philippines immigration official and police source spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. official said investigators had also uncovered evidence that Paddock may have rehearsed his plans at other venues before ultimately carrying out his attack on the Route 91 Harvest country music festival near the Mandalay Bay hotel.

ARSENAL RECOVERED

Fresh details about the massacre Paddock’s weaponry emerged on Tuesday.

Police said Paddock strafed the concert crowd with bullets for nine to 11 minutes before taking his own life, and had set up cameras inside and outside his hotel suite so he could see police as they closed in on his location.

Slideshow (19 Images)

A total of 47 firearms were recovered from three locations searched by investigators – Paddock’s hotel suite, his home in Mesquite, and another property associated with him in Reno, Nevada, according to Jill Snyder, special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Snyder said 12 of the guns found in the hotel room were fitted with so-called bump-stock devices that allow the guns to be fired virtually as automatic weapons. The devices are legal under U.S. law, even though fully automatic weapons are for the most part banned.

The rifles, shotguns and pistols were purchased in four states – Nevada, Utah, California and Texas – Snyder told reporters at an evening news conference.

A search of Paddock’s car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be formed into explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people, Lombardo said earlier.

Police also confirmed that photos widely published online showing the gunman’s body, his hands in gloves, lying on the floor beside two firearms and spent shell casings, were authentic crime-scene images obtained by media outlets. An internal investigation was under way to determine how they were leaked.

Video footage of the shooting spree on Sunday night caught by those on the ground showed throngs of people screaming in horror, some crouching in the open, hemmed in by fellow concert-goers, and others running for cover as extended bursts of gunfire rained onto the crowd of some 20,000.

Police had put the death toll at 59 earlier on Tuesday, not including the gunman. However, the coroner’s office revised the confirmed tally to 58 dead, plus Paddock, on Tuesday night.

More than 500 people were injured, some trampled in the pandemonium. At least 20 of the survivors admitted to one of several hospitals in the area, University Medical Center, remained in critical condition on Tuesday, doctors said.

The union representing firefighters disclosed that a dozen off-duty firefighters who were attending the music festival were shot while trying to render aid to other spectators, two of them while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on victims.

“This is a true feat of heroism on their part,” said Ray Rahne of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The gunman’s brother, Eric Paddock, said his family did not plan to hold a funeral for his brother, who was not religious, in part because it could attract unwanted attention. He previously described his brother as a financially well-off enthusiast of video poker and cruises.

The death toll of Sunday’s shooting far surpassed the massacre of 26 young children and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and the slaying of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year.

The latter attack was previously the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Additional reporting by Lisa Girion in Las Vegas, Jonathan Allen and Frank McGurty in New York, John Walcott, Susan Cornwell, Doina Chiacu and Jeff Mason in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Toby Chopra

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Whirlpool’s washer war is balancing act for Trump

Whirlpool’s washer war is balancing act for Trump

Clyde, Ohio (Reuters) – In the middle of Whirlpool Corp’s bustling washer factory in northern Ohio there is an empty patch of concrete floor – a reminder of a $60 million expansion plan the appliance maker says fell victim to unfair foreign competition.

“We cleared that out to hold more plastic molding machines,” says Daniel O’Brien, the factory’s vice president of operations. Whirlpool (WHR.N) halted the upgrade two years ago blaming South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) for the setback. In a string of trade cases the Benton Harbor, Michigan-based manufacturer has argued the Koreans have undercut its U.S. business by exporting washers at unfairly low prices.

Since the Nov. 8 presidential election, Whirlpool has been fighting with renewed vigor, seeking more protection. President Donald Trump’s administration is the first one in decades that openly says it is searching for ways to hit back at foreign producers it finds are hurting domestic manufacturers.

But the washer case has a twist.

Since the election, both Korean producers have announced plans for big U.S. factories and that confronts the administration with a dilemma: how do you weigh interests of a U.S. manufacturer against investment plans of foreign competitors and which jobs are more important?

Whirlpool’s sprawling complex in Clyde – stretching nearly a mile from corner to corner – employs 3,200 well-paid union workers.

Now, LG is spending $250 million to build a 600-worker factory in Tennessee, while Samsung is investing $380 million to renovate an old Caterpillar Inc. factory in South Carolina that will employ 950. Both states are dominated by Republicans.

POLITICAL BACKING

The investment in Tennessee has attracted support from local, state and federal officials, many of whom attended a groundbreaking ceremony in August, LG spokesman John Taylor said. “We got terrific feedback from Commerce Secretary (Wilbur) Ross when he was at the groundbreaking.”

Both LG and Samsung said their investments followed years of preparations, though Taylor said the timing of the announcement was “opportune” given Trump’s focus on manufacturing jobs.

Whirlpool remains the leader in the $7.5 billion U.S. washer market, but the rivals are closing in. The company’s brands, which include Maytag and Amana, account for just under 35 percent of domestic sales, down from over 38 percent in 2013, according to Stevenson Co’s TraQline, a market research company. Over the same period, Samsung’s share doubled to just under 20 percent, while LG’s held steady around 16 percent.

The Korean producers argue innovation and more choice for the consumers rather than prices have driven their growth and say Whirlpool’s five straight years of record results weaken its case. Both companies deny they have violated U.S. trade laws.

”Whirlpool’s stock price more than tripled from 2012 to 2015. It is hard to see how such an industry is suffering material injury,” LG lead outside counsel Daniel Porter told the International Trade Commission, a federal agency that investigates trade issues, in a meeting earlier this year.

The Commerce Department declined to comment for this story because of the pending ITC case brought by Whirlpool.

Nevertheless, the Korean manufacturers are nervous. At the groundbreaking for the LG plant in August, the company pulled forward the date for completion by six months to the first quarter of 2019 — an extremely fast construction window for such a factory.

A washing machine basket is sprayed with a porcelain coating at a Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio, U.S. October 3, 2017. Picture taken October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Whirlpool, which won two anti-dumping cases against the Korean firms in the past four years, took its fight one step further and filed a “safeguard petition” in May, seeking broader protection than anti-dumping measures provide.

A safeguard targets imports from any country and the petitioner does not need to prove that the goods are being sold at unfairly low prices—just that the influx of products is disrupting the U.S. market and causing “serious injury” to domestic producers.

The ITC is due to vote on Thursday whether washing machine imports cause harm to U.S. producers. If it rules in Whirlpool’s favor, the commission will recommend remedies, such tariffs, import quotas or other measures, to Trump in early December.

RARE SAFEGUARDS

U.S. producers have seldom sought such protections, in part because they are often challenged at the World Trade Organization. The last case was in 2002, when President George W. Bush imposed tariffs of up to 30 percent on certain imported steel products.

Slideshow (13 Images)

Clark Packard, a policy analyst at the R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank, says the safeguards should be reserved for rare instances of unforeseen surges in imports, but that the “atmosphere is ripe in Washington” for these cases.

Whirlpool says it is seeking broader protection because the Korean producers were able to avoid anti-dumping tariffs by moving production from country to country. After the ITC imposed anti-dumping tariffs against South Korean washers made in South Korea and Mexico in 2013, the production moved to China and when the ITC slapped tariffs on those washers, LG and Samsung began making them in Vietnam and Thailand.

“The only plausible explanation for these moves was to dodge the U.S. anti-dumping orders and avoid duties,” said Whirlpool Chairman Jeff Fettig, in testimony before the ITC in September.

As part of the safeguard petition, Whirlpool also wants curbs on the import of large washing machine components, arguing otherwise the Korean companies could merely set up assembly plants running primarily on foreign parts.

While the case has worked its way through the system, the mood in Clyde has darkened as investment plans were scaled back.

Leading the way up to a cluster of idle machines, O’Brien, the plant vice president, says: “This is $3 million worth of machinery — and it only runs two or three hours a day.”

The equipment was installed in 2015 before the other investments were put on hold, he notes. Elsewhere in the plant, a giant poster, painted by a worker, shows an anthropomorphic Whirlpool washing machine, pushing past stumbling washers labeled LG and Samsung – a far more upbeat take on the rivalry than the mood on the factory floor.

“Everyone here feels the frustration,” says Lori Frasure, a 30-year-old factory worker, “it’s a frustration that we’re not all playing by the same rules.”

The only other large domestic manufacturer of washing machines is GE Appliances, now owned by China’s Haier Group (1169.HK). Earl Jones, the company’s senior counsel, says GE is not party in the Whirlpool case, but it has also cut investments and reassigned workers inside their appliance manufacturing complex in Louisville, Kentucky.

”We’re on the record of supporting their petition.”

Follow Trump’s impact on energy, environment, healthcare, immigration and the economy at The Trump Effect: www.reuters.com/trump-effect

Reporting by Timothy Aeppel; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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Tillerson weighed quitting in July amid tensions with Trump: NBC

Tillerson weighed quitting in July amid tensions with Trump: NBC

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials intervened to persuade Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to resign during the summer as tensions rose between President Trump and the nation’s top diplomat, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

In July, Pence met with Tillerson in an effort to ease growing discord over policy, NBC reported, citing 12 current and former senior administration officials and other people close to Trump.

Their meeting came days after Tillerson, in a session with Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials at the Pentagon, openly criticized the president and reportedly called him a “moron,” NBC said, citing three officials familiar with the incident.

Representatives for the State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the NBC report.

Tillerson, in late July, had weighed whether to return to Washington from a personal trip to Texas but was reassured after discussions with General John Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, the network reported, citing four people with direct knowledge of the exchanges.

Tillerson said publicly in late July that he was “not going anywhere.”

The White House declined to comment to NBC, and a State Department spokesman told the network Tillerson did not consider quitting in July and did not call the president a moron.

“Wow, so many Fake News stories today. No matter what I do or say, they will not write or speak truth. The Fake News Media is out of control!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning shortly after NBC published its report. It was not clear what stories Trump was disputing.

Over the weekend, Tillerson said the United States had direct channels of communication with North Korea to see if it was interested in dialogue in hopes of reducing tensions. The next day on Twitter, Trump said Tillerson was “wasting his time.”

Tillerson is not the only Cabinet official to have publicly diverged from the president on policy issues.

Mattis said on Tuesday the United States should consider staying in the Iran nuclear deal unless it was proven that Tehran was not abiding by the agreement or that it was not in the U.S. national interest to do so.

Trump has called Iran’s 2015 deal with six world powers an “embarrassment.”

Mattis has played down any tensions between Trump and Tillerson over their apparent split, most recently over North Korea.

Trump’s White House and State Department have also taken differing stances on other foreign policy issues.

Earlier this year, Trump backed Gulf Arab leaders in their boycott of Qatar even as Tillerson and the Pentagon cautioned against the military, commercial and humanitarian effects of the dispute.

Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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Exclusive: SEC forensics unit sought resources, cyber training ahead of 2016 hack

Exclusive: SEC forensics unit sought resources, cyber training ahead of 2016 hack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In August 2016, just two months before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission discovered its corporate filing system had been hacked, the SEC’s internal watchdog, Carl Hoecker, received a plea for help from his new forensics investigative unit.

In a three-page memo that was shared with U.S. Congressional staff and seen by Reuters, the head of the forensics unit complained of “serious deficiencies” in equipment, inadequate cyber defense training, and a lack of communication with the SEC’s Office of Information Technology (OIT).

The forensics unit’s staff were told to use equipment due for disposal when they asked for supplies and ended up repurposing computer hard drives instead. Their hardware budget for the fiscal 2017 year at $100,000 was about half a million dollars short of what was needed, the memo said.

“Even though the (Digital Forensics and Investigations Unit) has been in existence for over one year, there is no strategic vision and no clear objectives,” it read.

The concerns in the memo, however, were never addressed, according to sources familiar with the matter, and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), run by Hoecker, was not notified of the October 2016 breach of the SEC’s corporate filing system known as EGDAR until many months later.

In August 2017, nearly a year after the hack, the inspector general’s office was asked to review the incident after SEC Chairman Jay Clayton learned about it, according to sources.

Clayton will face questions about the security breach when he testifies before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

He has asked the inspector general’s office to launch a review into the intrusion. What role, if any, that the digital forensics unit will play in that review remains unclear.

Raphael Kozolchyk, a spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General, did not respond to more than half a dozen requests from Reuters for comment. Hoecker did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Christopher Carofine, a spokesman for the SEC, declined to comment.

The SEC has been criticized for the length of time it took to disclose the hack and the delay in uncovering its extent. Its cyber defenses and practices have been questioned in the past, including by auditors inside Hoecker’s office.

Hoecker created the forensics unit in 2015. Besides assisting with computer forensics on internal criminal and civil probes, the office was also charged with helping to identify “threats to the SEC’s sensitive information systems” and to provide “cyber security capability,” he told Congress in two public reports in 2015 and 2016.

The 2016 memo, however, raises questions about the inspector general’s handling of its own forensics unit and whether it could have been in a better position to respond to and investigate the problem when it was first detected in October 2016.

“With the recent breach, the SEC and the SEC OIG need to make sure they didn’t overlook any warnings or calls for improvements that might have prevented a breach,” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa told Reuters in a statement.

“An agency that protects the integrity of public securities has to be up to speed on threats and how to prevent them.”

ENFORCEMENT MUSCLE

The SEC’s Inspector General’s Office is an independent internal watchdog that is tasked with policing waste, fraud and abuse and is staffed with investigators and auditors.

While the inspector generals at some of the larger government agencies are nominated by the President, the SEC’s inspector general is hired by and answers to the agency’s commissioners.

Under Hoecker, the SEC’s Inspector General’s Office has undergone a major restructuring.

Prior to his arrival in 2013, the office’s investigative staff did not have any criminal law enforcement powers and focused primarily on administrative probes involving SEC employees.

But Hoecker decided to take advantage of a provision in federal law that allows inspector generals’ offices to have law enforcement powers. He hired special agents who can carry firearms, conduct criminal investigations, make arrests and execute search warrants.

The Digital Forensics and Investigations Unit was part of Hoecker’s plan to have more enforcement muscle so that his office could conduct criminal investigations into hacking and provide forensic support on investigations.

As part of that vision, the forensics unit proposed conducting a full review of the SEC’s computer network, and wanted to develop a reporting system with the Office of Information Technology to help keep track of all cyber incidents, according to government documents shared with congressional staff.

Despite that proposal, the inspector general’s office has not received real-time notifications of cyber incidents, according to sources, a public 2017 audit of the SEC’s information security program, and internal government documents seen by Reuters.

“It is not uncommon to have a big push to do a cyber security initiative and then have the organization be uncomfortable with the nature and type of initiative people are starting,” said Beau Woods, a cyber security expert with the Atlantic Council.

“It sounds like there is either a communications gap, or a leadership gap, or both, where the right information is not getting to the right people.”

The inspector general’s investigators have done few, if any, probes related to cyber intrusions and most of their investigations, ranging from time and attendance fraud by SEC staffers to ethics violations, have not led to criminal charges despite the efforts to step up the office’s enforcement powers.

From January 2013 through April 2017, of the 71 cases referred for criminal prosecution to U.S. Attorneys offices, a total of 50, or about 71 percent, were declined, according to statistics obtained by Reuters through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Carmel Crimmins

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Bronx Zoo Unveils Baby Baboon

Bronx Zoo Unveils Baby Baboon

Bronx Zoo Unveils Baby Baboon

The Bronx Zoo has unveiled its latest resident, a baby gelada. At four weeks old, the infant playfully clings to its mother. The rest of the family consists of one adult male, three adult females and two juveniles. (Oct. 4)

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