Man kills daughter and six grandchildren in US shooting

A 51-year-old Florida man shot dead his daughter and six grandchildren in his home before killing himself on Thursday, authorities said.

Don Spirit, identified by authorities as the suspect, called 911 and killed himself after a sheriff’s deputy arrived at the scene, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz said.

Everyone in the house was killed, Schultz said. The eldest of the children was 10, he said.

“We’re all family here. What can you say?” Schultz said.

The incident occurred near Bell, a town of about 500 located roughly 35 miles (56 km) west of Gainesville.

Schultz declined to give the name of the dead woman.

Spirit, a New Jersey native, had an extensive criminal history, public records show, including convictions for possession of illegal weapons, battery and depriving a child of food and shelter.

In 2001, Spirit shot his 8-year-old son to death in what was determined to be a hunting accident, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported.

He pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in connection with the case and was sentenced in a plea deal to three years in prison, the paper reported in 2003.

Khodorkovsky ‘ready to lead Russia’

Ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in jail after challenging the Kremlin, openly stated his political ambitions on Saturday by announcing he would be ready, if called upon, to lead Russia in times of crisis.

 

“I would not be interested in the idea of becoming president of Russia at a time when the country would be developing normally,” he was quoted as saying by Le Monde newspaper.

“But if it appeared necessary to overcome the crisis and to carry out constitutional reform, the essence of which would be to redistribute presidential powers in favour of the judiciary, parliament and civil society, then I would be ready to take on this part of the task.”

The comments were made as Khodorkovsky, 51, launched an online movement dubbed open russia to unite pro-European Russians in a bid to challenge Putin’s grip on power.

“A minority will be influential if it is organised,” he said during a ceremony broadcast online from Paris.

Khodorkovsky and his allies said political change could come quickly and insisted the time had come to think of Russia’s future after Putin.

Khodorkovsky stressed that his project — named after his eponymous charity that was shut down after his imprisonment — would be an online “platform” for like-minded people, not a political party.

The Kremlin is still likely to find the project unsavoury, said the photogenic ex-tycoon sporting closely-cropped hair and a casual shirt.

“I expect him to be upset,” Khodorkovsky said, referring to his nemesis Putin.

Russian activists and prominent emigres including Paris-based economist Sergei Guriyev and London-based businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin – both of whom fled the country under pressure from security services – joined the online ceremony.

Khodorkovsky, who lives in Switzerland with his family, openly supported a Ukrainian uprising that ousted a Moscow-backed president in February, but indicated he did not want a bloody revolt for Russia.

The soft-spoken former head of the defunct Yukos oil firm – who according to his allies was jailed for opposing the Kremlin – said all those supporting a pro-European course for Russia should unite ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2016.

Some analysts said they were surprised by Khodorkovsky’s declaration of political ambitions.

‘Russia is Europe’

Khodorkovsky said everyday Russians can still influence the fate of their country.

“We support what they call the European choice or a state governed by the rule of law,” he said.

“We believe that the statement ‘Russia is not Europe’ is a lie that is being imposed on society on purpose.

“This is being done by those who want to rule the country for life, those who want to spit upon law and justice,” Khodorkovsky said in a thinly veiled reference to Putin, the former KGB operative who came to power in 1999.

“We are Europe, both in terms of geography and culture.

“We are not simply Russian Europeans. We are patriots. And true patriots even during pitch-dark reactionary times should serve their country and their people.”

‘Long and dangerous path’

Khodorkovsky’s supporters expressed hopes his project would raise awareness among Russians and help them see through state propaganda.

“It is time to open our mouths,” said Chichvarkin.

“We are ahead of a long, hard and dangerous path,” added former deputy finance minister and economist Sergei Aleksashenko.

State media appeared to enforce a blackout on news coverage of Khodorkovky’s online project.

His spokeswoman Olga Pispanen said the project’s website, openrussia.org, became the target of distributed denial of service attacks.

Attempts to prevent activists from joining the ceremony were reported in the central Russian cities of Nizhny Novgorod and Yaroslavl.

While many scoffed at Khodorkovsky’s effort to rally Russians while in exile, some said the project could pay off in the long run.

“Such a project is sorely needed,” political analyst Mark Urnov said, calling it an “antidote” for the country’s grim reality.

Top Liberian doctor under Ebola quarantine

Liberia’s chief medical officer is placing herself under quarantine for 21 days after her office assistant died of Ebola.

Bernice Dahn, a deputy health minister who has represented Liberia at regional conferences about combating the epidemic, told The Associated Press on Saturday that she did not have any Ebolasymptoms but wanted to ensure she was not infected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 21 days is the maximum incubation period for Ebola, which has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and is hitting Liberia especially hard. WHO figures released Friday said 150 people died in the country in just two days.

Liberia’s government has asked people to keep themselves isolated for 21 days if they think they have been exposed. The unprecedented scale of the outbreak, however, has made it difficult to trace the contacts of victims and quarantine those who might be at risk.

“Of course we made the rule, so I am home for 21 days,” Dahn said Saturday. “I did it on my own. I told my office staff to stay at home for the 21 days. That’s what we need to do.”

Health officials, especially front-line doctors and nurses, are particularly vulnerable to Ebola, which is spread via the bodily fluids of infected patients. Earlier this month, WHO said more than 300 health workers had contracted Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three most-affected countries. Nearly half had died.

Appeals court closed in Guinea

In Guinea, the country where Ebola cases were first confirmed back in March, officials said Saturday that the country’s appeal court had been closed until further notice after a staffer there died of Ebola.

Justice Ministry spokesman Ibrahima Beavogui confirmed the closure of the court – located in the capital, Conakry – said it was necessary to protect officials and suspects.

Another justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the press, said the secretary for the court clerk died of Ebola last week. “All the records of the department passed through the hands of this woman,” the official said.

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