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November 11, 2012

"Given that most young people are never without their smartphones," it only makes sense that one father of a college-age daughter finally turned a smartphone case into a self-defense device. The Spraytect smartphone case ($40) includes a mount for a pepper-spray canister, so if the owner points it at an assailant and fires, "habañero-fueled mayhem ensues." A safety clip on the canister prevents accidental discharges, so you're unlikely to end up blinding friends when trying to take a photo. For now, the case works only with iPhones. Source: Gizmag The Week Staff

10:35 p.m. ET
Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

The family of a Missouri man killed by an Arkansas inmate scheduled to be executed on Thursday sent his daughter a plane ticket so she could see him for the first time in 17 years.

In 1999, Kenneth Williams, now 38, escaped from prison, and was being chased in a stolen car by police when he rammed into a water delivery truck being driven by Michael Greenwood. Greenwood died instantly. Kayla Greenwood was five at the time of her father's death, and her mother, Stacey, was pregnant with twin boys. Williams was in prison for the murder of a college cheerleader, and killed a man during his escape; he later confessed to another murder that took place in 1998. Arkansas is pushing to execute nearly a dozen death row inmates, because the state's stockpile of lethal injection drugs is set to expire at the end of the month; if Williams is put to death on Thursday, it will be the fourth execution in Arkansas in a week.

After the Springfield News-Leader interviewed Kayla about the upcoming execution, she was spurred to contact Williams' 21-year-old daughter, Jasmine. Once the family found out she hadn't seen her father in 17 years and he has never met her toddler daughter, they purchased tickets for them to fly from Washington to Little Rock, and Kayla, her mother, her stepfather, and the twins drove down on Wednesday morning to meet them and drive to the prison. Kayla said the family sent Williams a message letting him know they forgave him, and Jasmine told her that when "the warden read the email to him, he broke out in tears. When he found out that we are bringing his daughter and granddaughter to see him and that my mom and dad bought the tickets, he was crying to the attorney." It was important that Jasmine and her daughter have time with her dad, Kayla said, and her family was "excited to come, as if it was happening for us." Catherine Garcia

9:44 p.m. ET
Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

As the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots approaches, witnesses who watched as stores went up in flames and angry cries filled the streets are remembering what unfolded on April 29, 1992.

The riots began after four white police officers were acquitted of assault after being videotaped kicking and striking black motorist Rodney King while he was on the ground. After the Watts riot in the 1960s, white flight hit South Los Angeles, and black residents said they were targeted by police officers because of the color of their skin. Tensions were also high between residents and newly-arrived Korean immigrants running neighborhood stores; a few weeks before the King beating, a Korean liquor store owner shot and killed a black teenager over a bottle of orange juice. For many witnesses to the riots who spoke with The Associated Press, all of this made it easy to see why South Los Angeles went up in flames.

Some vividly remember the looting — Dee Young was 27 at the time, and watched as the first group hit a liquor store, running off with cases of pilfered alcohol. He never left South Los Angeles, and said today, things have gotten "90 percent" better. "People in the neighborhood need to work together — black, Hispanic, even white people — and they are coming back here, if slowly but surely," he said. Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, now the executive vice president of the Community Coalition of South Los Angeles, was 16 during the riots, and saw a man park his car in front of an electronics store as he prepared to steal a television; while he was inside, his vehicle was stolen.

About 200 liquor stores burned down during the riots, and even more were looted. James Oh, 68, bought Tom's Liquor on the corner of Florence and Normandie eight years ago, and brought in items residents appreciate — there are now milk and eggs on the shelves, not just alcohol. He came to the neighborhood to fight stereotypes of Korean-American business owners, he told AP. "If you invest in the community, you have to be involved in the community," he said. "Communication is everything." Read more about their stories — as well as how a New York Times photographer whose jaw was broken by an angry mob was rescued by a recently returned veteran — at The Associated Press. Catherine Garcia

8:03 p.m. ET
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign fighters are leaving the Islamic State in droves, with many surrendering to or being caught by Turkish border police over the last few weeks, The Guardian reports.

People who sympathized with the terror group are also fleeing, as ISIS loses ground in its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. Last week, Kary Paul Kleman, a 46-year-old from Florida, and Stefan Aristidou of London surrendered at the Kilis crossing, accompanied by Aristidou's British wife, Kleman's Syrian wife, and two Egyptian women whose husbands were killed in battle, The Guardian reports. Aristidou claimed he traveled to Syria two years ago not to fight but to live, later admitting he was in Raqqa. Kleman's mother said after he got a divorce, he converted to Islam and moved to Egypt in 2011. He married and divorced an Egyptian woman, then moved to Dubai and married a Syrian woman. His family said he went to Syria in 2015 to help with humanitarian efforts.

The United States estimates that up to 30,000 foreign fighters have likely crossed into Syria to fight with ISIS, and as many as 25,000 have been killed. Turkish and European officials have said their embassies are being contacted by ISIS fighters who have joined in recent years and are asking to return home, The Guardian reports. While many foreigners are ready to leave ISIS, there are others more committed than ever; western intelligence officials believe that at least 250 ISIS fighters over the last two years have been smuggled over the Turkish border and are now in Europe. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, senators were briefed at the White House by top national security advisers on the situation in North Korea, but several said they left the meeting without hearing any solid details on how the U.S. will deal with the country as it remains intent on building a nuclear arsenal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked for the briefing, which was delivered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats, and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a statement, Tillerson, Mattis, and Coats said the goal of the United States is to "convince the regime to de-escalate and return to a path of dialogue" toward peace. The U.S. does remain "open to negotiations," the statement read, but is "prepared to defend ourselves and our allies."

Several senators told The Washington Post that during the briefing, they did not learn much about how the U.S. will deal with North Korea and its provocations. "There was very little, if anything, new," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. "I remain mystified about why the entire Senate had to be taken over to the White House rather than conducting it here." A Republican senator told the Post the "basic gist of it at the beginning was that we're going to get more aggressive, we've waited and they've continued to be bad actors." The senators wanted to know what "we should be looking for as the trigger that something is about to happen and that we'd end up taking some kind of action. That's where things got a little elliptical."

Earlier in the day, Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, told Congress the U.S. needs to take threats from North Korea very seriously, and should strengthen missile defenses in key areas like Hawaii. Catherine Garcia

5:49 p.m. ET
Getty

In an interview with the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, President Trump revealed he's "absolutely" thought about breaking up the 9th Circuit Court. That's the same court that was singled out in a White House statement Tuesday after U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled to temporarily block Trump's executive order that threatens to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities.

Though Orrick does not sit on the 9th Circuit Court, the White House pummeled that court all the same after Orrick's ruling. "First the 9th Circuit Court rules against the ban," Trump wrote on Twitter, "and now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings." He also vowed to see the 9th Circuit Court "in the Supreme Court!"

Judges who are on the 9th Circuit Court have blocked both versions of Trump's immigration executive order. Orrick sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, whose appealed cases go to the 9th Circuit Court, but does not sit on that court himself.

Trump on Wednesday told the Washington Examiner that "there are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit." "It's outrageous," Trump said. "Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit," he went on. "And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that's like, semi-automatic." Becca Stanek

4:58 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump's proposal to slash taxes for businesses and families could cost the nation $5.5 trillion, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget revealed Wednesday. Trump's tax proposal, which he unveiled Wednesday, includes plans to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and to whittle the seven existing tax brackets down to three rates of 10, 25, and 35 percent.

While Trump may bill his plan as family-friendly, the CRFB noted in its fiscal tax check that it could "drive up the federal debt, harming economic growth instead of boosting it" if "adequate offsets" aren't put in place. "With interest costs, a $5.5 trillion tax plan would be enough to increase debt to 111 percent of Gross Domestic Product (compared to 89 percent of GDP in CBO's baseline) by 2027," the CRFB wrote. "That would be higher than any time in U.S. history, and no achievable amount of economic growth could finance it."

Read the full report here. Becca Stanek

4:18 p.m. ET
San Diego Natural History Museum

Researchers may have been off by nearly 115,000 years when they estimated that humans arrived in North America about 15,000 years ago. The potential miscalculation was uncovered by a collection of mastodon bones, which were discovered during construction work on a California freeway in 1992. After toiling for years to date the bones, researchers announced this week in a paper published in the scientific journal Nature that they'd determined the remains of the adult male mastodon to be about 130,000 years old — and to contain signs of human activity.

The finding is likely to be controversial. Already, Smithsonian Magazine noted, the question of when humans arrived in North America is "a flashpoint among archaeologists." There is no other evidence to indicate humans arrived tens of thousands of years earlier than has been suggested, but paleontologist Thomas Deméré, one of the study's authors, said they have the evidence to back up the claim. "I realize that 130,000 years is a really old date," Deméré said. "Of course, extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence."

The mastodon bones that were uncovered bear "impact marks suggesting that they had been smacked with a hard object," Smithsonian Magazine reported. Researchers also discovered five massive stones at the site, which they believe humans may have used as hammers or anvils. The stones "showed signs of impact," Smithsonian Magazine said, and the bones were found piled up right around these stones.

"[W]e can eliminate all of the natural processes that break bones like this," said Steven Holen, another study co-author. "These bones were not broken by carnivore-chewing, they were not broken by other animals trampling on the bone." Becca Stanek

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