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‘Paris shooter’ convicted of domestic violence in England

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The man alleged to have wounded a photographer in a Paris shooting spree had been convicted of domestic violence in Britain shortly before returning to France, a newspaper said Thursday.

Newspaper Liberation reported that Abdelhakim Dekhar, who is facing charges of attempted murder and kidnapping in France, was convicted of spousal abuse by a court in St. Albans, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of London, in January.

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He was sentenced to wear an electronic bracelet, carry out community service and follow a curfew for six months. He was also ordered to stay away from his ex-partner, a Latvian student named as Valentina A., and their two children, boys born in 2004 and 2006.

His sentence ended on July 16, 2013, after which he came to France, Liberation said. He lost an appeal in October and was ordered to pay £400 (480 euros/$650) in legal fees.

“The rejection of his appeal on October 16 and, therefore, the definitive nature of his domestic violence conviction, may explain his decision to stay in France,” Liberation wrote.

Dekhar, 48, was arrested on November 21 after a major manhunt following a shooting at Liberation, a left-wing newspaper, that left a photographer’s assistant seriously hurt, and a separate incident where shots were fired at the headquarters of the Societe Generale bank.

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He is also accused of having hijacked a car during his escape and of having a few days earlier threatened staff with a gun at the Paris headquarters of 24-hour television news channel BFMTV.

Dekhar had moved to Britain in 1998, after serving a sentence in France for his role in a famed “Bonnie and Clyde” style shoot-out with police in Paris in October 1994 that left five dead.

Dekhar was convicted of having bought a shotgun used in the 1994 attack by student Florence Rey and her lover Audry Maupin.

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Liberation also reported that Dekhar had in 2000 married a young Turkish student, Gamze Aras, and that the couple had lived in Ilford northeast of London.

Dekhar has refused to cooperate with police but his DNA has matched samples found at the scene of the attacks. In letters found after the attacks, Dekhar railed against capitalism and accused the media of being involved in conspiracies.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Scientists shed light on how brains turn pain up or down

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Pain perception is essential for survival, but how much something hurts can sometimes be amplified or suppressed: for example, soldiers who sustain an injury in battle often recall not feeling anything at the time.

A new study published in Cell Reports on Tuesday honed in on the brain circuitry responsible for upgrading or downgrading these pain signals, likening the mechanism to how a home thermostat controls room temperature.

Yarimar Carrasquillo, the paper's senior author and a scientist for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), told AFP the region responsible was the central amygdala, which according to her work appeared to play a dual role.

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US House passes Hong Kong ‘Democracy Act’

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The US House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday sought by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong that aims to defend civil rights in the semi-autonomous territory, prompting an angry response from China.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will now move to the Senate before it can become law, has drawn rare bipartisan support in a polarized Congress.

The law would end the Hong Kong-US special trading status unless the State Department certifies annually that city authorities are respecting human rights and the rule of law.

China expressed "strong indignation" over the passing of the act, which also requires the US president to identify and sanction people who are responsible for the erosion of autonomy and serious abuses of human rights in Hong Kong.

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2020 Election

Rising star Warren weathers attacks at Democratic White House debate

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Surging White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren faced a barrage of attacks from fellow Democrats at the party's fourth 2020 debate Tuesday, cementing her status as a frontrunner in the race to challenge Donald Trump.

The president himself loomed large as the dozen Democratic contenders trained their fire on him, calling for his impeachment and assailing a Syria troop pullout that Joe Biden slammed as "shameful."

"The impeachment must go forward," thundered Warren, the progressive senator who is neck and neck with former vice president Biden at the head of the 2020 nomination race -- a stance loudly echoed by her fellow Democrats on stage.

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