Nearly a dozen mass graves tied to Islamic State found in Iraq

Oct. 9 (UPI) — Nearly a dozen mass graves containing the bodies of Islamic State militants have been found in Iraq in recent days, officials said.

The Iraqi army said Monday one mass grave was discovered west of Ramadi. Twenty bodies of IS fighters found there were killed while attempting to defend their positions in the town 70 miles west of Baghdad. Iraqi troops recaptured the city last year.

The mass grave “was found while Iraqi troops were combing [the] Abul Jir mountainous region, located west of al-Rahaliya, west of Ramadi,” Col. Alaa Fadel said.

A Facebook posting by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Monday referred to the grave location as a cemetery and said 30 bodies had been found. It added that Iraqi army forces also found an anti-tank mine and another explosive device.

The announcement of the discovery came two days after 10 additional mass graves were found on the outskirts of Hawija, a town recently taken from IS forces in Kirkuk province.

The bodies found in those graves, officials said, belonged to security forces and civilians who’d been executed by Islamic State militants.

Iraqi officials said they also found a detention facility nearby they suspect was used by the group to torture detainees and incinerate their bodies.

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Las Vegas: Gunman may have planned escape, booked Chicago rooms

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Authorities say Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock appears to have planned an escape from Sunday’s mass shooting attack, and that he also left a note before he killed himself.

When asked by reporters if there was any evidence Paddock planned to flee the scene of the shooting, Lombardo answered, “Yes.”

The sheriff made references to the hotel cameras outside of his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino which the gunman had rigged to thwart police officers.

Police found a note they believe was written by Paddock, Lombardo said. The sheriff did not disclose what the writing contained, but said it wasn’t a suicide note.

It was reported Thursday that the attack at the Mandalay Bay might not have been the first time Paddock booked a hotel overlooking a musical event.

Citing a law enforcement official, USA Today and TMZ reported that Paddock booked two rooms in Chicago in August near the Lollapalooza music festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of fans every year.

It was unclear, though, whether Paddock used the rooms or even traveled to Chicago, the reports said.

Paddock also rented a hotel room in Las Vegas that corresponded with the “Life is Beautiful” music festival, officials said.

“I anticipate he was looking for anybody coming to take him into custody,” Lombardo said of the cameras.

The gunman had a camera set up in his hotel room, apparently to record himself during the mass shooting.

Additionally, Lombardo said Paddock’s vehicle was found to have containers of the explosive material tannerite and up to 1,600 rounds of ammunition. Including his home and hotel suite, the shooter was in possession of over 40 firearms overall.

Paddock is believed to have killed himself before law-enforcement arrived at his suite.

Although the shooter’s motive is still under investigation, Lombardo clarifies the attack was “obviously premeditated.”

The gunman’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, released a statement that she had no indication Paddock was going to do “something horrible” and flew back to the United States from vacationing in the Philippines to cooperate with investigators.

On Tuesday, prayer vigils were held for the victims of the attack in various locations. Thousands gathered at the Canyon Ridge Christian Church. During and sang “Amazing Grace” in memory of the dead. Makeshift memorials were made for the victims throughout Las Vegas.

Paddock, a 64-year-old Mesquite resident with no criminal background, killed 58 people and injured over 500 in what has become the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

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Air Force contracts for upgraded ICBM launch system

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins are to upgrade a system enabling aircraft to control the ground launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Air Force announced this week.

U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command said the two contacts are for three years and worth $ 81 million each.

“The Airborne Launch Control System provides the strategic capability of survivable airborne command and control for the Air Force’s fleet of ICBMs,” said Col. Scott Jones, ICBM Systems director at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. “The new system will be a timely replacement of the legacy system and provide continued ICBM airborne command-and-control capability through 2075.”

The awards to Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Rockwell Collins begin a design competition for upgrading the nuclear command-and-control mission system, which allows for the launch of ICBMs through commands from Navy’s E-6B Mercury aircraft. The Minuteman III and future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBMs require an alternate launch control capability in case of launch interference to ground-based facilities.

The current Airborne Launch Control System provides this capability for Minuteman missiles through 1960s-era radio equipment at each of 450 Air Force ICBM launch facilities and on Mercury aircraft.

“We are developing a modular system that can be easily upgraded to address new technologies and threats as they emerge,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and program executive officer for strategic systems.

The Air Force said it plans fielding of the new system by 2024.

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Cigna scraps coverage for OxyContin in anti-abuse effort

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Insurer Cigna announced Thursday it will no longer cover the opioid painkiller OxyContin, as part of a commitment to reduce overuse of the addictive drug.

Cigna, one of America’s largest health-insurance companies, said in a statement that it’s taking a multi-faceted approach to reduce opioid use by 25 percent by 2019.

“Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications — this means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse,” said Jon Maesner, Cigna’s chief pharmacy officer.

“We continually evaluate the clinical effectiveness, affordability, and safety of all our covered medications as these characteristics can change over time, and we make adjustments that we believe will provide better overall value for those we serve.”

Cigna will stop covering OxyContin effective Jan. 1.

Cigna’s decision comes at a time most health experts agree that an opioid epidemic exists in the United States. President Donald Trump has promised to give greater aid to those affected by addiction. Thursday, senior health officials testified in Congress about the issue.

The health insurer says it will begin the process of notifying customers with OxyContin prescriptions of the change to prepare to discuss with their doctors a transition to alternative treatment options.

The company has signed a value-based contract with Collegium Pharmaceutical for the drug Xtampza ER, which it says is an alternative to highly-addictive painkillers.

Cigna said it will consider approving OxyContin if a customer’s doctor finds it medically necessary.

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UPI Almanac for Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017

Today is Sunday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2017 with 91 to follow.

The moon is waxing. Morning stars are Mars and Venus. Evening stars are Jupiter and Saturn.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Libra. They include Henry III, king of England; aerospace entrepreneur William Boeing in 1881; novelist Faith Baldwin in 1893; outlaw Bonnie Parker in 1910; actor Walter Matthau in 1920; Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, in 1924 (age 93); former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in 1924; actor Richard Harris in 1930; Julie Andrews in 1935 (age 82); actor Stella Stevens in 1938 (age 79); baseball Hall of Fame member Rod Carew in 1945 (age 72); actor Stephen Collins in 1947 (age 70); actor Randy Quaid in 1950 (age 67); British Prime Minister Theresa May in 1956 (age 61); Esai Morales in 1962 (age 55); former home run leader Mark McGwire in 1963 (age 54); actor Zach Galifianakis in 1969 (age 48); actor Sarah Drew in 1980 (age 37); actor Greg Davis Jr. in 1984 (age 33); actor Matthew Daddario in 1987 (age 30); actor Brie Larson in 1989 (age 28); actor Luna Blaise in 2001 (age 16).

On this date in history:

In 1890, legislation is signed by President Benjamin Harrison, creating Yosemite National Park, making it the nation’s third National Park.

In 1903, the first World Series opened in Boston. It was a best-of-nine competition, won by the Boston Pilgrims of the American League over the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League.

In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model-T automobile, selling it for $ 825, and changing the way Americans would travel throughout the country.

In 1918, Arab forces under T. E. Lawrence, better known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” capture Damascus. Lawrence would prove instrumental in the establishment of a provisional Arab government under Prince Faisal.

In 1938, Nazi troops march into the Sudetenland, annexing the German-speaking border regions of Czechoslovakia.

In 1946, Herman Goering, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and 10 other Nazi arch-conspirators were condemned to hang within 15 days for their World War II crimes.

In 1962, James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi, a campus littered with the debris of a major riot that took two lives and injured at least 75 persons, tearing down the barriers of segregation at the 114-year-old school.

In 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Supreme Soviet after the forced resignation of Andrei Gromyko.

In 1992, Dallas billionaire Ross Perot announced his candidacy for the presidency. He called his group the Reform Party.

In 1995, 10 Muslims were convicted of conspiring to conduct a terrorist campaign in the New York City area aimed at forcing the United States to drop its support of Egypt and Israel.

In 2005, 36 people, mostly foreign tourists, died in explosions at two resort restaurants on the island of Bali. More than 100 others were injured.

In 2010, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel resigned to run for mayor of Chicago. He was elected.

In 2011, about 400 Occupy Wall Street protesters, close to half of those who took part in demanding U.S. social and economic policy change, were arrested by New York City police when they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 2013, a 16-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government began after Congress failed to approve a spending bill. The Office of Management and Budget later estimated the shutdown cost taxpayers $ 2 billion.

A thought for the day: “It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.” — Cesar Chavez

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O.J. Simpson released from Nevada prison

Oct. 1 (UPI) —O.J. Simpson, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and convicted felon, was released from the Nevada prison in Lovelock where he’s spent the last nine years serving his sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping.

The Nevada parole board voted to grant Simpson an early release on July 20, 2017. Sunday, October 1, was the earliest Simpson could be released, and at 12:08 a.m. PDT, prison officials opened the gates of the Lovelock Correctional Center and allowed Simpson to go free.

Over the weekend, some news reports suggested Simpson was on the move as early as Saturday — from prison facility to prison facility — with prison officials aiming to free Simpson with as little media attention as possible.

Ultimately, Simpson walked out the doors of the same facility where he has spent the last nine years. However, the former standout running back was let go late at night to avoid press.

It’s not clear who picked Simpson up or where he is headed.

A close friend of Simpson, Tom Scotto, has offered to put the infamous star up at his house in Florida. Prior to his arrest and conviction, Simpson resided in Florida for several years. He he told parole board members he preferred to return to Florida. Two of Simpson’s four children live in Florida.

Florida’s attorney general issued a statement last week saying Simpson was not welcome in the state.

Where ever he ends up, Simpson will remain under parole supervision for up to five years.

In 2008, the former University of Souther California star was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping after he and several associates attempted to retrieve personal items from a pair of sports memorabilia dealers. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in the incident.

The items, including signed photos and other personal belongings, were eventually turned over to Simpson by Nevada officials after they were determined to belong to him.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at USC, Simpson went on to a series of successful seasons as running back for the Buffalo Bills. Upon retiring from football, Simpson turned his sites on Hollywood. The icon starred in several T.V. shows and movies.

His reputation and relationship with the American public took a turn for the worse when he was arrested and charged for the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In a court trial that was one of the first to be broadcast live on television, Simpson was acquitted of the charges.

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