In brief | Nation & World, February 17, 2014


Conviction in Florida trial raises questions about race, self-defense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A verdict in the city of Jacksonville is again raising the issue of self-defense and race in Florida, just seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Michael Dunn, a white 47-year-old software developer, could face 60 years in prison following his conviction Saturday on multiple counts of attempted murder for shooting into a carful of teenagers outside a Jacksonville convenience store in 2012. Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, was killed in the shooting, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge against Dunn. A mistrial was declared on that count.

The verdict is a far cry from one delivered in the Zimmerman case, when he was acquitted in July in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, about 125 miles south of Jacksonville.

Like Zimmerman, Dunn said he felt his life was in danger when he fired the shots. But the verdict suggested the jury struggled to see it that way.

Following an argument over loud music coming from the car that Davis was in, Dunn said he shot at the car with his 9 mm handgun — he said he was afraid and thought he saw a shotgun in the car.

Heroin laced with powerful drug fentanyl causing fatal overdoses

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. — On an icy night last month, a man entered a grocery store here, walked past the displays of cake mix and paper towels, and went into the bathroom, where he injected himself with heroin.

Hours later, the man was found dead in the bathroom with a needle still in his arm, authorities said. They believe the man was one of more than 80 across the country who have died in recent weeks after injecting heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate.

As the number of people who use, and fatally overdose on, heroin has skyrocketed in recent years, authorities are seeing the return of an alarming development: heroin that, often unbeknownst to the user, is spiked with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is typically administered to people in chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic. It is considered 80 times more powerful than morphine and can kill by inhibiting breathing.

“The dealers push this as being a super high, which it is, but it’s also lethal,” said Ellen Unterwald, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Temple University School of Medicine. Users typically don’t know how much fentanyl is mixed in, and she said just a small amount can be fatal because the drug is so potent.

House Dems deploy unusual tactic to force votes on key issues

WASHINGTON — House Democrats are determined to cast an election-year spotlight on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and overhauling immigration laws.

To try to accomplish that in the GOP-controlled House, Democrats are planning to rely on an infrequently used, rarely successful tactic known as a “discharge petition.”

It requires the minority party — in this case, Democrats, who are unable to dictate the House agenda — to persuade some two dozen Republicans to defy their leadership, join Democrats and force a vote on setting the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats will push the wage issue when Congress returns from its break Feb. 24. Forcing a vote on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws could occur in a few months.

Democratic leaders argue that a majority of Americans favor both steps, which are priorities for President Barack Obama, and say the House GOP is the obstacle. Republicans say Democrats are embarking on an approach that they know has little chance of success in an attempt to circumvent the will of the GOP-led House.

By wire sources