Suspect identified in threat made on Charlotte volunteer; poll security heightened

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte’s polling places are getting extra police attention after threats were made by an armed man against a black GOP campaign volunteer in the Steele Creek area.

“The department is conducting scheduled zone checks at all polling locations through the election on November 6,” according to a statement issued at 4 a.m. Thursday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police identified the suspect in the Wednesday incident as Jason Donald Wayne, 28, of Charlotte.

He is charged with going armed to the terror of people, communicating threats, disorderly conduct and ethnic intimidation, according to Mecklenburg County jail records.

It’s the fourth time Wayne has been arrested in the past two years in Mecklenburg County, including twice for parole violations, jail records show.

The campaign volunteer was identified by a Charlotte Observer story as Derek Partee, and he posted photos on Facebook of the suspect and the two men accompanying him.

— The Charlotte Observer

L.A. County sheriff launches review of deputies who stopped innocent Latino drivers

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has launched a pair of internal reviews into a team of deputies who have pulled over thousands of innocent Latino drivers on the 5 Freeway in a search for drugs.

Sheriff’s officials told the department’s civilian oversight commission Thursday that auditors were examining data on the traffic stops and the department’s constitutional policing adviser is reviewing the team’s practices amid allegations that deputies engaged in racial profiling along the highway.

The announcement came as commission members questioned department brass about the team’s work and a Los Angeles Times investigation that found the deputies stopped and searched the vehicles of Latino drivers at far higher rates than motorists of other racial or ethnic groups.

Chief John Benedict and Capt. Robert Lewis, who oversee the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team, denied that deputies target Latino drivers as they make stops along a rural, 40-mile stretch of the freeway near Santa Clarita.

Commissioner Lael Rubin, a former supervisor in the district attorney’s office, asked whether the board would be able to review data the department collects on the team’s traffic stops. Benedict responded by highlighting the two ongoing inquiries, which are in addition to an independent review being done by Max Huntsman, the county’s inspector general. Huntsman told commissioners he would provide them the department’s traffic stop data.

— Los Angeles Times

SpaceX lines up another launch of its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket from the Space Coast

SpaceX has lined up another launch of its mighty Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida’s Space Coast.

In what is now the sixth planned launch for the powerful rocket, SpaceX is planning to send a Viasat satellite into orbit between 2020 and 2022 from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. California-based Viasat announced the deal Thursday.

Falcon Heavy has only launched once before, in a demo flight that sent a Tesla Roadster into space in February from Kennedy Space Center. Thousands of spectators flocked to the Space Coast, lining up on Playalinda Beach and near Kennedy Space Center to watch as the Falcon Heavy took off, sending massive plumes of smoke across the launch pad.

The rocket is the most powerful U.S. rocket since the Saturn V, which took men to the moon. It can lift up to 141,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

Global communications company Viasat said it had chosen the Falcon Heavy specifically for its ability to fly almost directly to its final destination at geostationary orbit — instead of having to perform a set of maneuvers before it reaches that destination.

Getting straight to geostationary orbit means the ViaSat-3 satellite will be able to turn on its ultra-high-speed broadband service quicker than when launched with a different rocket, the company said. Together, the three ViaSat-3 satellites, one of which will ride on Falcon Heavy, are designed to bring more than one terabit per second of network capacity to customers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.

— Orlando Sentinel

Amid sex abuse crisis, Pope Francis calls on U.S. bishops to gather for retreat at Illinois seminary in January

CHICAGO — Pope Francis has called on Catholic bishops nationwide to gather for a historic seven-day spiritual retreat at Mundelein Seminary in suburban Chicago in January as church hierarchy grapple with the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal.

As chancellor of the seminary, Archdiocese of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich — now in Rome for a monthlong meeting of global church leaders — will serve as host of the gathering, which could include some 300 bishops from around the country.

Loyola University Chicago theology professor Miguel Diaz called the retreat “historically significant for American Catholics.” The concept of the gathering reflects the pope’s leadership style — his Jesuit background in particular — to address church challenges “within the context of collaborative and prayerful discernment,” said Diaz, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

The announcement of the spiritual retreat comes in the wake of a horrific grand jury report in August that documented bishops and other Roman Catholic Church leaders in Pennsylvania covering up the sexual abuse of children by hundreds of priests and other clergy over roughly seven decades.

Shortly after its release, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced plans to meet with Catholic Church leaders throughout the state to examine the local ties of about a half-dozen clergy members named in the grand jury report. In a 2002 letter included in the report, one victim from Illinois recounted decades-old abuse by a priest and Air Force chaplain once considered a “father figure.”

“I don’t think I knew what was really happening at the time,” the victim wrote. “Anyway I felt protected by him, and my parents trusted him and I knew they wouldn’t let anyone harm me.”

Larry Antonsen, a Chicago leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was skeptical that a weeklong spiritual retreat will prompt any real change. He called on church hierarchy to be more transparent.

— Chicago Tribune

Warnings of attack on Venezuelan opposition leader came days before beating

Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, attacked with clubs and rocks Wednesday by pro-government thugs, is the most recent target of an increasingly desperate Nicolas Maduro regime because of her steadfast resistance to a new round of political negotiations, former Colombian President Andres Pastrana said Thursday.

Pastrana, who had warned two days earlier that Machado’s life was in danger, told el Nuevo Herald that all the actions against Machado were being directed by the secret police, known as SEBIN.

“What we’re seeing is that the stumbling block on the way to the false negotiations” between the regime and the opposition “is Maria Corina Machado,” Pastrana said.

“Information from friends from the Venezuelan opposition and friends we have in other places pointed to the possibility that they were organizing an attack” against Machado, the former Colombian president added.

Machado is the most popular opposition leader in Venezuela, largely because of her fierce stance against the government and proposals to relaunch what she considers to be a fake negotiation process designed to buy Maduro more time in power.

The attack on Machado sparked widespread indignation at home and abroad, with several political leaders saying that they hold Maduro directly responsible for her safety.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., posted his reaction on Twitter: “Outrageous attack on opposition leader @MarinaCorinaYa, members of her team and lawmakers @omargonzalez6 y @JuanPabloGve. My solidarity with them. These acts cannot remain unpunished.”

— El Nuevo Herald