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November 8, 2018

Police have identified the suspected gunman who opened fire and killed at least 12 people at a California bar as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a veteran of the Marine Corps.

The shooter entered the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, at about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday night, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said early Thursday, per The Associated Press. A sheriff's sergeant who was responding at the scene, Ron Helus, was among those killed. Authorities said Thursday that the gunman used a .45-caliber handgun, which he purchased legally and modified.

Authorities also said Thursday that police had had a number of interactions with the suspect over the years for "minor events," such as a traffic collision. In April, deputies were called to his house, and he was "acting a little irrationally," Dean said. A crisis intervention team was called out and a mental health specialist cleared him.

The suspect was found dead in the bar, the county sheriff said, and authorities believe he shot himself. Witnesses to the shooting had said that he was dressed in all black and wearing glasses, CNN reports. Records show the suspected shooter served in the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2013. Brendan Morrow

October 3, 2018

A volcano erupted in Indonesia on Wednesday, affecting the same island afflicted by a devastating earthquake and tsunami just days ago, The Associated Press reports.

More than 1,200 people have died since Friday, when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that brought 20-foot waves to central Indonesia. The New York Times reports that local officials are struggling to count the dead and arrange mass burial sites while continuing to search for survivors. Roads and bridges have been destroyed, making it difficult to disperse aid, especially in isolated regions.

As if things couldn't get worse, Mount Soputan erupted on Sulawesi island, the site of the earthquake's epicenter. Officials told AP that it's possible the earthquake triggered the volcano's eruption, but it's still unclear. Indonesia is on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," so seismic activity isn't unusual, and Soputan is a particularly active volcano. Residents within a few miles of the mountain have been warned to avoid the area.

The greatest danger at the moment stems from the 19,700-foot plume of ash that arose from the volcano. Locals should don masks to avoid inhaling the ash, and planes have been advised to steer clear. Luckily, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the ash wasn't affecting planes that planned to arrive in Indonesia to supply aid.

Watch the video below to see just how horrific the damage is in the city of Palu, via The New York Times. Summer Meza

August 17, 2018

At least 324 people in the southern Indian state of Kerala have died in the past nine days after heavy rain caused severe flooding, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Rescuers evacuated thousands of people in Kerala, entering with helicopters and boats Friday to help. Many people were stranded on their rooftops, rescued by one of more than a dozen helicopters. More than 220,000 have evacuated to state-run relief camps, following weeks of rain that has caused landslides and destroyed homes and bridges all over the region.

While monsoon season is deadly every year in India, officials said this season was unprecedented in its severity. Kerala's hospitals are reporting shortages of oxygen, gas stations are running out of fuel, and a major airport in the state suspended all flights, citing a flooded runway.

Across seven Indian states, more than 1,000 people have died since monsoon season began in June, with Kerala being hit hardest. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

August 14, 2018

At least 23 people died and another 14 were injured when a bus crashed near Quito, Ecuador, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The long-distance bus was traveling overnight, and flipped after hitting another vehicle outside of Ecuador's capital, officials said. At about 3 a.m., the bus was passing through an area known as "dead man's curve" when it crashed and overturned. Emergency officials said the bus was Colombian-registered and was carrying Colombian and Venezuelan passengers who were on their way to Quito.

The tragedy unfolded just one day after another bus carrying Ecuadorean soccer fans crashed while traveling near Cuenca. The bus also overturned, killing 12 and injuring 30 who were traveling home after a match, BBC reported. Read more about the Quito incident at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

June 25, 2018

Police in Long Beach, California, said Monday that a 77-year-old man is suspected of starting a fire at his retirement home, then shooting firefighters when they responded to the call for help.

One of the first responders, Capt. Dave Rosa, 45, a 17-year veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department, was shot and killed. Another firefighter, Ernesto Torres, was wounded, and has since been released from the hospital. Authorities said a resident of the Covenant Manor facility was also shot and is in critical but stable condition. "This is a tough day," Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said.

First responders arrived at Covenant Manor at around 4 a.m. Monday, after reports of an explosion and the smell of gasoline, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said. After a preliminary investigation, officers believe that Thomas Kim purposely started a fire as a way to lure first responders in order to shoot them, and he's been arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, and arson. Luna said two explosive devices were found inside his apartment, and they recovered a revolver after arresting him. He is being held on $2 million bail. Catherine Garcia

June 8, 2018

This past flu season's toll on children was the most severe that federal health officials have ever seen.

A record number of children died from the flu during the 2017-2018 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.

Approximately 80 percent of the 172 child deaths were among children who didn't receive flu vaccinations, officials said, and about half were among children with a pre-existing health condition. Most children died within a week of contracting symptoms. It was the deadliest year on record, surpassing the previous maximum in 2012-2013.

This year had an unusual number of consecutive weeks when children were reported to be hospitalized at a high rate for flu symptoms. The data excludes pandemics, like when the H1N1 swine flu outbreak killed 282 children in 2009, said the CDC.

NBC News reports that the flu kills anywhere between 12,000 and 49,000 people every year. The most recent flu season was particularly deadly in part because of ineffective vaccines, but researchers are still unsure of the exact reason for such a severe year. One thing scientists are sure of, though, is that a flu vaccine can make all the difference: "Annual influenza vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent influenza illness," advised the CDC. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

August 31, 2016

Scientists estimate that before European colonization, the elephant population in Africa numbered around 20 million. By 1979, that number was a mere 1.3 million. But now, following the first major study of its scale and kind, the population of elephants living in Africa is estimated to be just over 350,000, CNN reports.

Due primarily to rampant poaching, between 2007 and 2014 the number of elephants in Africa dropped by 30 percent. In some regions, it dropped by more than 75 percent:

"When you think of how many elephants occurred in areas 10 or 20 years ago, it's incredibly disheartening," says [Mike Chase, the lead scientist of the Great Elephant Census].

"Historically these ecosystems supported many thousands of elephants compared to the few hundreds or tens of elephants we counted."

The current rate of species decline is 8 percent, meaning that elephant numbers could halve to 175,000 in nine years if nothing changes, according to the survey — and localized extinction is almost certain.

Even before the census offered proof, scientists calculated that far more elephants were dying than being born. Now the species has reached a tipping point. [CNN]

To reach their conclusions, the team of 90 scientists and 286 crew members spent 10,000 hours over 18 African countries to count the elephants from the air. South Sudan and the Central African Republic were not included in the study results due to armed conflict, nor was Namibia, which refused to release numbers.

"[Elephants] are our living dinosaurs, the romance of a bygone era, and if we can't conserve the African elephants, I'm fearful to think about the fate of the rest of Africa's wildlife," Chase said. Read the full report on the elephant census at CNN. Jeva Lange

July 29, 2016

Animal behavior specialists are bewildered by an incident at the Zoological Garden of Rabat, in Morocco, in which a female elephant picked up a stone and threw it at the crowd, striking and killing a 7-year-old girl.

"The behavior … of any animal is very complex and wild animals are unpredictable," said Abderahim Salhi, the zoo's veterinarian. "We are all surprised. We don't yet understand."

The elephant threw the stone, which was about half the size of a brick, more than 33 feet, over a ditch and a wooden barrier; it struck the girl in the head. "In my opinion, it's unlikely the elephant was directly targeting the girl but exhibiting frustration," Phyllis Lee, the scientific director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, told the BBC.

The Rabat zoo defended its enclosure, which it said met the international standards, and called the incident "rare, unpredictable, and strange."

"We are very sad at what happened, but it would be wrong to blame the elephant. This was not premeditated," Salma Slimani, in charge of zoo administration, told The Associated Press. Jeva Lange

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