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October 30, 2014



In Colorado east African community, girls' attempt to join jihadis is parents' worst nightmare

by The Associated Press

AURORA, Colo. – The strange journey of three suburban Denver girls who authorities say tried to join Islamic State militants in Syria has many in their close-knit east African community worried about whether their own children will be the next to be lured to terror.

The girls' voyage has mystified many in the U.S., and has been even more troubling among Aurora's Somali and Sudanese immigrants, thousands of whom fled civil war and forged new lives in the Denver suburbs, where refugees easily find jobs driving cabs or working in the meat industry.

But while the girls' parents were working to give them a better life, being a Muslim teenager isn't easy in an American high school, said Ahmed Odowaay, a community advocate who works with youth. It's easy to feel like an outsider, even as a U.S. citizen.

Even his 10-year-old daughter gets taunts of "terrorist" when she wears her hijab in school, he said.

"This community is outcast. They feel like they don't belong here. They're frustrated," Odowaay said from his seat at Barwaaqo, a restaurant hidden in one of Aurora's low-slung strip malls, where other men dined on goat and spaghetti, a favorite east African dish. "I'm worried their frustrations will lead them in the wrong direction."

Young people in communities like this across the country are vulnerable to extremists in Syria and elsewhere who reach out to them online, promising the glory of battle, the honor becoming a wife, or just acceptance. Odowaay said it's easy for young Muslims to encounter recruiters while trolling Facebook. He said it's happened to him.

Family and friends saw the three — two Somali sisters ages 17 and 15 and their 16-year-old Sudanese friend — as typical Muslim teenagers who like the mall and movies, not fundamentalists.

It wasn't until they missed class that the 16-year-old's father realized they had been talking online to militants, who convinced them to steal cash from their parents, buy plane tickets and head to Syria with their U.S. passports. Authorities said one of the girls did most of the planning and encouraged the others to follow.

Alarm spread quickly as friends and relatives realized the girls were gone, and saw signs of their plans on their Twitter accounts.

"She asked her friends to pray for her ... and at that time, I just knew that something really bad was going to happen," said the father of a 16-year-old, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he is concerned for the girls' safety.

He called the FBI and his congressman for help, and agents stopped them at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

The girls likely won't be charged with a crime and are safe now, but the father said he is still troubled by lingering questions about their intentions, who recruited them online and how they were so easily able to board a plane and head overseas. His daughter seemed not to have a clear idea of what she would be doing if she had made it there.

"They're just like, you know, stupid little girls," he said. "They just want to do something, and they do it."

At the girls' high school, the possibility that students might be lured to terror wasn't something they had previously considered, said Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole. That's changed, and FBI officials spent the past week doing outreach, looking for friends who may have had similar intentions. Teachers encouraged students to come forward with concerns or if they see something suspicious.

"This was not a problem we were aware of," said Halimo Hashi, who owns an African fashion boutique. "If we knew, maybe we could have spoken to the right people."

Hafedh Ferjani of the Colorado Muslim Council said he is arranging meetings with Denver FBI officials and youth in the community, as they held several years ago after concerns arose that young men were returning to Somalia to join the terror group al-Shabab.

"If we learn what happened from the girls, we can avoid someone else doing that," he said.

As the community comes to grips with the dangers, things have changed for the girls' families, too. The sisters' father doesn't grasp the severity of the situation, said Rashid Sadiq, who leads the Somali Organization of Colorado and met the girls' father more than a decade ago.

As 16-year-old's father tries to repair his family, he has advice for those worried their children might be led astray.

"I just ask any parent to look for what their kids are doing online," said the father.




Community policing operation conducted Tuesday

by The NewsJournal

MANSFIELD – The Richland County Community Policing-Probation-Parole Partnership conducted an operation with the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force-Richland County Division on Tuesday.

Thirteen officers from Richland County Adult Probation, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Mansfield Municipal Probation, the Mansfield Police Department and the N.O.V.F.T.F. participated in the sweep. The focus of the operation was to check on violent, drug and sex offenders in the community to monitor their compliance with conditions set by the court.

During the operation, officers checked and made contact with over 30 residences. Officers issued misdemeanor summons to two people. Two offenders were arrested for technical violations. One offender was arrested on an outstanding warrant for her arrest after being located hiding in the backseat of a van. She lied to officers about her identity and was charged with falsification.




Public safety plan turns focus to helping ex-offenders

by Michael Henrich

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Advocates looking to increase public safety and reduce recidivism rates gathered in Indianapolis Thursday for the Marion County Conference on Re-entry.

The conference starts at 9 a.m. with remarks from nonprofit advocates, as well as Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.

Lena Hackett, with Community Solutions and the Marion County Re-entry Coalition, said official estimates show 5,000 people come back to Marion County from incarceration each year, but she believes that number is truly in the 8,000-9,000 range.

“We want to make sure that when they come back, they know how to be a strong family member, they know how to integrate back in to find employment and housing and be productive,” Hackett said, “so that they stay active in the community and build strong neighborhoods, rather than not have any options [and] perhaps commit a new crime and end up back in incarceration.”

Hackett said the conference will focus on bringing advocates together to learn best practices about methods of helping ex-offenders, how to recognize whether those methods are working and also how to advocate public policy changes.




Corporate tax dodging threatens public safety

by Dan Cougill

I'm usually a fan of the Whopper, but recently I haven't set foot inside a Burger King. In August, the company announced it would renounce its U.S. corporate "citizenship" to avoid paying its fair share of taxes.

As a professional firefighter, I know that tax dodging by huge corporations can drain resources we need for firefighters, police, the military, and other important things. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. Now I've lost my taste for everything on the Burger King menu.

Burger King is just the latest corporation to exploit a loophole that allows an American company to transform itself into a foreign company while actually maintaining all its operations here. This make-believe move — called a "corporate inversion" — lets the company enjoy the privileges of operating in this country but dodge its responsibility to help pay for them.

When corporations duck out on their portion of the bill that pays for public services, the rest of us pay the price in higher taxes or slashed services. I know firsthand that federal aid to fire departments across the country has been cut in recent years, making all of us less safe.

Corporate tax dodging also hurts small business. Growing up in Aurelia, I watched my dad struggle to keep afloat his fuel delivery service and small gas station until a big chain finally forced him out of business. Huge corporations already have enough advantages over the little guy. They don't need offshore tax loopholes, too.

This being election season, I'd really like to know where the candidates we see in all those TV commercials stand on this issue. I have some sense about Bruce Braley, who has voted on these issues in Congress — usually on the side of ordinary people. But I want to hear more from Joni Ernst. She's signed a pledge from a group in Washington that would make it next to impossible to close tax loopholes so that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Most politicians pay attention to polls, and on this issue popular opinion is clear. Seven out of 10 Iowans are opposed to corporate inversions, and they specifically oppose Burger King's move, according to a recent poll. Clearly, the company's lack of patriotism isn't playing well in the heartland.

Iowans rightly understand that our tax system is rigged against them — and they want change. Seven out of 10 Iowans say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to make sure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. And more than eight out of 10 Iowans would support a candidate who wants to pay for better public services by closing corporate tax loopholes.

When such high numbers of Iowans agree on anything, politicians should pay close attention.

Some big-time CEOs claim that corporations pay too much in taxes. Then how do they explain 26 well-known corporations like General Electric, Verizon and Priceline.com paying exactly zero in federal income taxes from 2008 to 2012? You and I paid more in taxes in one year than all 26 of these companies put together paid over five.

When a corporation like Burger King discards its American identity like an old burger wrapper, I think about the brave men and women who have served our flag, here and abroad. I think about my son-in-law, who saw military service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Did they sacrifice so big American corporations could switch national flags to save a few bucks?

People like you and me helped build those companies: as consumers, workers and taxpayers. Not only have I downed my share of Whoppers, but when a grease fire gets out of hand, its folks like me who ride to Burger King's rescue. Burger King wants the firefighters to show up when they're needed, but it doesn't want to foot its part of the bill for that lifesaving service.

We need to close tax loopholes and require that corporations contribute their fair share. We have a say in the matter: We can demand that our elected officials put an end to these outrageous tax dodges. And if companies like Burger King insist on abandoning America to pad their bottom lines, we all can do something about it — eat somewhere else.


DAN COUGILL of Sioux City is president of the Iowa Professional Fire Fighters.

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