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Crime
Omaha police arrest two 16-year-old boys in shooting of Benson High basketball player

Two teens have been arrested in the shooting of a Benson High School basketball player that led to the amputation of his leg and other medical complications.

But based on what Ke’Shon Henderson told police after he was shot, at least one other person who was involved remains at large, Henderson’s mother said Monday.

Omaha police said two 16-year-old boys have been arrested in the shooting, which occurred the evening of Sept. 23 near 42nd and Sprague Streets. One was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault and use of a weapon to commit a felony, the other on suspicion of robbery.

Ke’Shon Henderson was shot twice, his mother said. One of the bullets, she said, clipped the bottom of his right lung and went into his right leg. The other, she said, went through his abdomen and damaged his kidneys, liver, small intestine and bowel.

Henderson has undergone more than a dozen surgeries, his mother said. During one surgery, doctors concluded that part of his right leg needed to be amputated because of a lack of blood flow to the limb. He now needs another surgery on the leg that will allow doctors to fit him with a prosthetic, she said.

He also is recovering from a stroke he had a few days ago that his mother said has led to a neurological decline. Doctors are trying to wean him off medications that have kept him in a medically induced coma, she said.

Because of damage to his kidneys, Henderson had to undergo kidney dialysis, his mother said. Fluid buildup led his weight to balloon from his normal 165 to 170 pounds to 230 pounds, she said.

Two days before he was shot, Henderson attended a basketball recruiting event at Judson University, a Christian liberal arts college in Elgin, Illinois, according to school officials.

The university is committed to working with him "to provide a significant scholarship to attend Judson," a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

“We hope that he is able to recover and continue his plans to pursue a college education,” Mary Dulabaum wrote. “We will hold Ke’Shon and his family in our prayers during this difficult time.”

Henderson, a senior at Benson, also does well in the classroom, his mother said. He was on the principal’s honor roll for students with a GPA of 3.9 or higher, she said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover Henderson’s medical expenses. He is the middle child of five.

Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to contact the Omaha Police Department’s homicide unit at 402-444-5656 or Omaha Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP, at omahacrimestoppers.org or on the P3 Tips mobile app. Tips leading to an arrest in a shooting are eligible for a $10,000 reward.

Notable crime news of 2019

Articles
Researchers on front line of battle against Chinese theft
U.S. UNIVERSITIES

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. warned allies around the world that Chinese tech giant Huawei was a security threat, the FBI was making the same point quietly to a Midwestern university.

In an email to the associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, an agent wanted to know if administrators believed Huawei had stolen any intellectual property from the school.

Told no, the agent responded: "I assumed those would be your answers, but I had to ask."

It was no random query. The FBI has been reaching out to colleges and universities across the country as it tries to stem what American authorities portray as the wholesale theft of technology and trade secrets by researchers tapped by China. The breadth and intensity of the campaign emerges in emails that the Associated Press obtained through records requests to public universities in 50 states.

The emails underscore the extent of U.S. concerns that universities, as recruiters of foreign talent and incubators of cutting-edge research, are particularly vulnerable targets.

Agents have lectured at seminars, briefed administrators in campus meetings and distributed pamphlets with cautionary tales of trade-secret theft. In the past two years, they've requested the emails of two University of Washington researchers, asked Oklahoma State University if it has scientists in specific areas and sought updates about "possible misuse" of research funds by a University of Colorado Boulder professor, the messages show.

The emails show administrators mostly embracing FBI warnings, requesting briefings for themselves and others. A University of Nebraska official invited an agent to make a presentation as part of broader campus training.

But the emails also reveal that some universities are struggling to balance legitimate national security concerns against their own eagerness to avoid stifling research or tarnishing legitimate scientists. The Justice Department says it appreciates that push-pull and wants only to help universities separate the relatively few researchers engaged in theft from the majority who are not.

Senior FBI officials told AP they're not encouraging schools to monitor researchers by nationality but instead to take steps to protect research and to watch for suspicious behavior. They consider the briefings vital because they say universities, accustomed to fostering international and collaborative environments, haven't historically been as attentive to security as they should be.

"When we go to the universities, what we're trying to do is highlight the risk to them without discouraging them from welcoming the researchers and students from a country like China," Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official, said in an interview.

The effort comes amid a deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China and as a trade war launched by President Donald Trump contributes to fears of a global economic slowdown. American officials have long accused China of stealing trade secrets from U.S. corporations to develop their economy, allegations Beijing denies.

"Existentially, we look at China as our greatest threat from an intelligence perspective, and they succeeded significantly in the last decade from stealing our best and brightest technology," said William Evanina, the U.S. government's chief counterintelligence official.

The FBI's effort coincides with restrictions put in place by other federal agencies, including the Pentagon and Energy Department, that fund university research grants. The National Institutes of Health has sent dozens of letters in the past year warning schools about researchers it believes may have concealed grants received from China, or improperly shared confidential research information. Last year, the Justice Department launched an effort called the China Initiative aimed at identifying priority trade secret cases and focusing resources on them.

The threat, officials say, is real. In the past two months alone, a University of Kansas researcher was charged with collecting federal grant money while working full time for a Chinese university; a Chinese government employee was arrested in a visa fraud scheme that the Justice Department says was aimed at recruiting U.S. research talent; and a university professor in Texas was accused in a trade-secret case involving circuit board technology.

The most consequential case this year centered not on a university but on Huawei, charged in January with stealing corporate trade secrets and evading sanctions. The company denies wrongdoing. Several universities including the University of Illinois, which received the FBI email in February, have since begun severing ties with Huawei. The University of Minnesota did the same.

But the Justice Department's track record hasn't been perfect, leading to pushback from some that the concerns are overstated.

Federal prosecutors in 2015 dropped charges against a Temple University professor who'd been accused of sharing designs for a pocket heater with China. The professor, Xiaoxing Xi, is suing the FBI. "It was totally wrong," he said, "so I can only speak from my experience that whatever they put out there is not necessarily true."

Richard Wood, the then-interim provost at the University of New Mexico, conveyed ambivalence in an email to colleagues last year. He wrote that he took seriously the national security concerns the FBI identified in briefings but also remained "deeply committed to traditional academic norms regarding the free exchange of scientific knowledge wherever appropriate — a tradition that has been the basis of international scientific progress for several centuries.

"There are real tensions between these two realities, and no simple solutions," he wrote. "I do not think we would be wise to create new 'policy' on terrain this complex and fraught with internal trade-offs between legitimate concerns and values without some real dialogue on the matter."

FBI officials say they've received consistently positive feedback from universities, and the emails do show many administrators requesting briefings or campus visits, or expressing eagerness for cooperation.

Kevin Gamache, chief research security officer for Texas A&M University, told the AP that he values his FBI interactions and that the communication goes both ways. The FBI shares threat information and administrators educate law enforcement about the realities of university research.

"There's no magic pill," Gamache said. "It's a dialogue that has to be ongoing."


Local
Omaha and its neighbors race to repair levees before cold weather, flooding hits

This fall’s flooding and cooler weather highlight the race that contractors, cities and natural resource districts are in to get the Omaha area’s flood-fighting levees in better shape before winter comes.

The need is pressing: September saw the sixth-highest water level recorded on the Missouri River at Omaha, 30.58 feet. And 2019 had already set two higher water marks, including during the massive March floods.

In communities downriver, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with state and local governments, expect to pay contractors more than $1.1 billion to repair levees damaged by March flooding.

Progress is being made: Contractors have closed 13 of 32 levee breaches along the Missouri River, said Bret Budd, who heads the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team restoring them.

The corps aims to close the last Missouri River levee breach letting water onto land in November, and contractors are already starting work on tributary projects near Gretna, Broken Bow, Columbus and Scribner.

But wet weather has folks worried.

“We’re going to have high flows in the river at least through October,” Budd said. “All of the projections ... are for a colder and wetter winter than normal. There’s no good news in any of it.”

The corps said it expects to need two years to get the levee system back to its pre-flood condition. Governments, to access federal funds, typically must repair federal levees before they can improve them.

One local exception, for national security, is the levee system protecting Offutt Air Force Base. The base sustained up to $1 billion in damage in March. Its levees are being repaired and built higher and wider at the same time.

The same levee system also protects Omaha’s sewage treatment plant in Bellevue. Water got inside the levees near the Papillion Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in March, causing more than $45 million in damage to the levees and the plant.

Other repairs in and around the Omaha area include levee work along the Big and Little and West Papillion Creeks and design work for more permanent repairs to the breached levee that flooded Valley in March, said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. That levee was patched in March.

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Omaha has seen far less flooding than many of its neighbors, thanks to its location on higher ground, and its levees and flood walls. But the city is doing some repairs, too, including to floodgates on pipes under the levees north of downtown.

The main challenge Omaha faces from a higher Missouri River is finding a way to pump out water that pools on the inside of the levee after heavy rains, Public Works officials say, including near the CHI Health Center arena and convention center.

The city hired HDR Inc. several years ago to study any repairs or upgrades the levee system might need to keep local property out of the 100-year floodplain under new Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

That study is not yet complete, and final costs are not yet known.

Jim Theiler, assistant director of Public Works, said the city plans to bolster some levees with more soil and wells to prevent seepage. It will do whatever is required to meet federal guidelines.

For that purpose, the city is trying to buy small strips of undeveloped land near Abbott Drive and Freedom Park Road, along with some land near rail lines near the Missouri River. In September, the Omaha City Council authorized Public Works to negotiate with landowners to buy the land.

The city is also looking at building a flood wall for its other sewage treatment plant, the Missouri River Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Omaha. It has used a temporary berm in recent years to hold back floodwaters and would like a more lasting solution, Theiler said. At least one building sustained minor damage in the March flooding.

What protects Omaha from flooding

Articles
Trump's GOP allies blast his move in Syria
Responding to criticism that he's abandoning the Kurds, president threatens economy of Turkey if it goes too far

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump faced criticism Monday from fellow Republicans for declaring that U.S. troops in Syria would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Kurds who have fought alongside Americans for years.

Even Trump's staunchest Republican allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State with U.S. troops.

"A catastrophic mistake," said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader.

"Shot in the arm to the bad guys," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a supermajority in the Senate disagreed with the president's abrupt withdrawal announcement, raising the specter of veto-proof action to oppose the decision.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion.

"It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home," Trump tweeted Monday in explaining his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northeast Syria and pave the way for Turkey's assault.

After facing strong pushback Monday for his decision, Trump threatened to destroy the Turks' economy if they went too far.

"If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey," he tweeted.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to defend the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey's NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Syria, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State's so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion.

"It's going to lead to ISIS reemergence," he told Fox News.

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump's presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

"I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible," he said.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the military campaign against the Islamic State reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump announced the change in U.S. policy Sunday night after speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One U.S. official said the Pentagon was working to make it clear to the Turkish military that "there will be a major break in relations" if Turkey attacks the Kurds.

Two senior State Department officials on Monday minimized the effects of the U.S. action, telling reporters that Turkey may not go through with a large-scale invasion and that the U.S. was still trying to discourage it. Both officials spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss what led to the internal White House decision.

Even if pressure from the U.S. and Europe succeeds in getting Erdogan to back down, the damage done to relations with the Kurds may be irreparable.

The announcement also injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn't informed ahead of time.

A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies, but entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

Trump defended his decision, acknowledging in tweets that "the Kurds fought with us" but adding that they "were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so."

Among the first to U.S. troops to pull back were about 30 from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It's unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there is no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia's position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will "look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region."

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., was among those on Capitol Hill criticizing Trump's decision.

"If the President sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children,'' said Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Responding to the Republican criticism on Monday, Trump said that he had "consulted with everybody" but held back from his usual tactic of attacking any critics, saying that he respectfully disagreed with those opposed to his decision.

"I could name other people who are thrilled," he told reporters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on "Fox & Friends" that he had not been briefed by the president about the decision and that he had concerns.

"I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us," he said, adding, "If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word."

Former Trump administration officials also expressed alarm.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. "must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. ... Leaving them to die is a big mistake."

Some evangelical Christian leaders aligned with Republicans also condemned the decision, warning that Turkish aggressions in northern Syrian could imperil Christian communities there.

"The president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen," Pat Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's show The 700 Club.

This report includes material from the Washington Post.