The 30-year-old Uzbek national accused of a terrorist conspiracy in Idaho and Utah waived his right to a detention hearing in Boise Tuesday, and apparently avoided public disclosure of details of his alleged crimes.
According to a federal court document, an attorney for Fazliddin Kurbanov withdrew his client's request for the hearing. Kurbanov confirmed the decision through an interpreter and agreed to remain jailed pending a July 2 trial date.
The hearing was expected to include government witness testimony about the alleged conspiracy, which federal prosecutors say involves the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a "designated foreign terrorist organization." Indictments in Idaho and Utah say little about the case. Kurbanov is accused of providing material support to the Uzbek group and of providing training in the construction and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The indictments refer to unnamed co-conspirators but no additional arrests have been made and officials said they had contained any threat of attack.
Federal prosecutors seemed ready to provide more details in arguing for Kurbanov's continued detention. Another document filed a few hours before the detention hearing disclosed the intent to provide evidence "obtained or derived from electronic surveillance or physical search conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" or FISA.
FISA is a controversial federal law that is used to circumvent normal procedures for obtaining search warrants in cases involving "foreign powers," including terrorist groups.
FBI agents had conducted a search of Kurbanov's Boise apartment but no search warrant affidavit is in the federal case file posted on the Justice Department's PACER electronic documents system.
The FISA filing signaled the possible disclosure of surveillance or search evidence at the detention hearing but Kurbanov's waiver made that possibility moot.
It's not known who else was involved in the alleged conspiracy, who or what was targeted, what kinds of acts were planned or whether targets were in the United States or abroad.
Neither U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson nor public defender Dick Rubin, Kurbanov's attorney, responded to NPR's requests for comments.
When Randy Keller moved from Texas to the Oklahoma City area several years ago, he couldn't find the house he was looking for.
"I was moving from Texas, where there are also a lot of tornadoes, and I wanted a house with a basement," says the professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Oklahoma. "But I just couldn't find one."
He didn't know it at the time, but Keller, who is also the director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, says he later discovered that the soil and water conditions in the central part of the state turned out to be the reason for the shortage of basements.
"We've got a high water table and red clay that expands and contracts depending on how much moisture there is in the soil," Keller says. "That expansion and contraction causes cracks in basement wall, and cracks mean leaks."
He isn't the only prospective buyer to have noticed the paucity of below-ground residential accommodations.
"I've always been told our soil is not good for basements," says Russell Benson, an Oklahoma City real estate agent on Trulia, in response to a prospective buyer asking why basements were so rare in Oklahoma. "I have sold a few older homes that had basements, but they were never in that great of shape."
A realtor friend told Keller that because basements in Oklahoma have such a reputation for leaks, they can actually be a barrier to resale.
The massive EF-5 tornado that swept through the region Monday, killing at least 24 people, missed Keller's basement-less home by only a few miles.
For John Hole, the president of Foundation King contractors, which operates in the Oklahoma City area, it was an even closer call. The twister hit just a mere six blocks from his house. But he and his wife weren't there at the time. They don't have a basement and decided instead to shelter at a nearby church, which does have one.
As the name of his company implies, Hole does foundations - but not many basements, especially in single-family homes. It's that shifting red clay that's the problem, he says, mostly for the central and northeastern parts of the state.
"Red clay is susceptible to water and heat, it moves, it causes cracks," he says. "So, you're going to need pumping systems and backup power to run the pumps because eventually the water's going to get in."
"For most homeowners, it just doesn't make sense, money-wise," he says.
According to Weather Underground, the frost line and Oklahoma building codes also might be a contributing factor:
"In the northeastern U.S., building codes generally require homes to be built with their footing below the frost line, which means that builders already excavate enough earth during construction to create a basement.
"In the southern U.S., however, building codes don't require this."
Adding a basement then would require more excavation than a contractor would normally be required to do.
Mike Hancock, president of Basement Contractors, says basements don't have to leak. In fact, on his company's website, there's a prominent link to a section called "debunking the myth".
"There's an old stereotype that you can't build basements in Oklahoma," says Hancock, whose business is one of a few in the area that will even build residential basements.
His theory is that basements are out of many contractors' comfort zone, so it's easier for them to say it's impossible than to admit they can't do a leak-proof job.
Basements are so rare, Hancock says, that the multiple listings for local residential real estate don't even have a box to check for a basement. But the fear of tornadoes is a "prime concern" of many of his customers who do want a basement in their home, Hancock says.
"It's always in the back of their minds, what am I going to do if there's a tornado," Hancock says.
He says that a lot of times, he's asked to put a safe room inside the basement itself, with "extra-thick interior walls, FEMA-approved doors and concrete supports instead of wooden joists," which can splinter and become razor sharp shrapnel during a tornado.
At a news conference Tuesday, Albert Ashwood, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had funded similar safe rooms for more than 100 schools, but that the two schools flattened by Monday's tornado were not on the list. At least nine students were killed at the two schools.
Safe rooms, Ashwood said, are a "mitigating measure. It's not absolute." However, any safety measure could have helped the kids survive, he said.
One alternative, he said, is a small shelter dug under a garage that can fit perhaps six people. Hancock says his company doesn't do that kind of work, but he thinks it's a good idea.
"The only problem is that they're small and with debris piled on top, it could take rescuers some time - perhaps days - to reach the survivors," he says.
Keller, the geology professor, still puzzles over the basement thing.
"I guess, it's not considered a plus," he says. "But, a few more of these situations like what happened yesterday and maybe people will change their tune."
Iran's powerful Guardian Council has disqualified two key candidates — a former president and a top aide to the current president — from running in the June 14 presidential election.
The Guardian Council, which vets all candidates, approved eight names Tuesday but left out former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was handpicked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mashaei said he would appeal the decision to the country's supreme leader; Rafsanjani did not comment.
The Associated Press has compiled a list of the eight approved candidates and their backgrounds. The two big names on the list are Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, who assumes the mantle of favorite, and former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati. Al-Jazeera reports:
"There have been wide speculations that Mashaei would be excluded from the list. But not Rafsanjani, a two-term president and current head of the Expediency Council, a position appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
"Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favour with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles.
"It also pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran's leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear programme."
As NPR's Peter Kenyon reported last week, nearly 700 hopefuls had thrown their names into the race.
"Although not exactly a free-for-all, analysts say, there's a clear sense that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has failed to unify the political elite behind a single establishment candidate, Peter reported. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's embattled president, is barred from running for a third consecutive term — though he continues to try to influence the field, throwing his weight behind his own handpicked candidate."
The Guardian Council also rejected the candidacies of all female candidates — about 30 in number.
"Just one approved candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, might draw some moderate appeal because of his role as vice president under former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
"The rest of the choices, at the very least, would create a possibly seamless front between the ruling clerics and presidency after years of political turmoil under Ahmadinejad, who tried to challenge the theocracy's vast powers to make all major decisions and set key policies. Iran's presidency, meanwhile, is expected to convey the ruling clerics' views on the world stage and not set its own diplomatic agenda."
A federal court is set to decide on the lawfulness of stop-and-frisk, New York City's controversial policing strategy meant to stop gun violence. The policy gives police officers wide discretion to stop, question, and in some cases, pat down people they suspect are carrying illegal guns.
But the numbers are jarring: of the 533,000 stops made last year, nearly nine in 10 were black or Latino. (There have been nearly 5 million stops in the city over the last decade.) Only about 10 percent of those stops were subsequently given summonses or arrested, and the stops yielded a total of 780 weapons.
City officials, including the Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have long argued that those numbers can be chalked up to the makeups of the neighborhoods with the most gun violence and say that the victims of gun violence are overwhelmingly black and Latino. "I can't imagine any rational person saying that the techniques are not working and that we should stop them," Bloomberg said.
But critics say that the stops violate the civil rights and essentially criminalize entire neighborhoods.
Our friends at Tell Me More are getting into the weeds of stop-and-frisk in the first of a two-part series. Today, they talk to some of the policy's vocal critics. Tomorrow, they'll speak to some of the policy's defenders inside the NYPD and elsewhere.
David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh Law School said that the policy is ineffective, if not counterproductive to policing:
Targeting them based on their racial or ethnic appearance is not a successful crime fighting strategy, despite what the Commissioner and the Mayor seem to believe. What they say is, 'See it's working!' By this method, they say, of instilling fear in people - 'We don't want people to carry their guns, that's why they do this.' So, they win either way. Targeting people based on race or ethnicity has never been shown - not in New York, not in anywhere else where this has been statistically tracked — to be the successful way to get guns, to get drugs, to get bad guys, because what you do, is you force people overall to pay an enormous cost, across an entire racial or ethnic group, for the actions of a very few people, and it also leaves out the fact that you could certainly use other methods, as other cities do, to force crime down that don't rely on this kind of very aggressive stop and frisk activity that embarrasses and humiliates, and most importantly drives people away from police.
Delores Jones Brown of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggested the NYPD employ different tactics that might be just as effective:
There are other policing tactics - something called "hot spots policing" that's being used by the NYPD that doesn't necessarily involve stop-and-frisk that researchers have found have in fact contributed to the crime reduction in the city. So, one of my suggestions recently has been to do more of that, and less of stop-and-frisk, because we can see a direct causal relationship between that kind of a practice - hot spots policing or something else, where we focus on the few dangerous people that can be identified individually and remove those people from the street, while leaving the law-abiding people alone.
In my view, the department is engaging in something I call "appearance profiling." And so, if they see a young Black or Latino male in certain types of clothing, like a hoodie or sagging pants, and they appear to be between certain ages, they automatically suspect them of criminality. But there's nothing criminal about being young, being Black, being Latino, being male and wearing sagging pants or a hooded sweatshirt or wearing particular colors that the police assume are gang-related.
Do you have any experience with stop-and-frisk? We'd love to hear about them in the comments, or tweet to us at #tmmfrisk.
A massive tornado swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday afternoon, leaving ruin in its path.
Moore Medical Center, which stood directly in the tornado's path, was devastated. But the workers, patients and their families in the hospital escaped.
Nick Stremble, a registered nurse and manager at the hospital, told Shots Tuesday what he saw.
"My ER is destroyed," he said. "My department was at the Moore Medical Center. I mean it's wiped out. The building is roped off so we're not doing anything there."
About 250 or 300 people were inside as the storm approached. The staff was able to direct everyone to designated zones located in the center of the hospital.
"[We] were able to move everbody to a safe location ... [and] get everybody where they needed to go and kind of hunkered down," Stremble said.
Stremble was doing a final sweep of the floors when he saw the storm heading for the hospital:
"I could see the debris in the air, and there was no mistaking it was going to be hitting the hospital. It was just right in front of me, so I ran downstairs to the safe zone and let everybody know they needed to hunker down. You could hear the noise picking up and wind kind of picking up and howling. And you can start to feel pressure on the doors, so I kind of braced the door with my back, trying to keep the door closed."
Stremble saw a door near him get sucked open and then he prepared himself as things deteriorated:
"My door got [blown] inward and I got pinned between the door and the wall. ... I was facing down the hall, and I could see all the folks being hit with the wind that was coming through the building, and the people that were kind of along the wall just kind of starting to tumble and roll and be pushed down the hall. And they all kind of ended up in a pile, down in front of another set of doors."
He said it's tough to comprehend the damage. "You can't recognize your landmarks — everything is just flat. It's disorienting to look around and not know where the streets should be."
The staff at Moore Medical Center staff is now working at other branches of the Norman Regional Health System and preparing for the possibility of more storms and more patients.