Doctors prepare for deep dive into Las Vegas shooter’s brain

This undated photo provided by Eric Paddock shows his brother, Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2017
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Doctors prepare for deep dive into Las Vegas shooter’s brain

LAS VEGAS: Scientists are preparing to do a microscopic study of the Las Vegas gunman’s brain, but whatever they find, if anything, likely won’t be what led him to kill 58 people in the worst mass shooting in modern US history, experts said.
Stephen Paddock’s brain is being sent to Stanford University for a months-long examination after a visual inspection during an autopsy found no abnormalities, Las Vegas authorities said.
Doctors will perform multiple forensic analyzes, including an exam of the 64-year-old’s brain tissue to find any possible neurological problems.
The brain will arrive in California soon, and Stanford has been instructed to spare no expense for the work, The New York Times reported. It will be further dissected to determine if Paddock suffered from health problems such as strokes, blood vessel diseases, tumors, some types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, degenerative disorders, physical trauma and infections.
Dr. Hannes Vogel, Stanford University Medical Center’s director of neuropathology, would not discuss the procedure with The Associated Press and referred questions to officials in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. They also refused to provide details.
Vogel told The Times that he will leave nothing overlooked to put to rest much of the speculation on Paddock’s health as investigators struggle to identify a motive for the shooting.
The examination will come about a month after Paddock unleashed more than a thousand bullets through the windows of a 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel into a crowd below attending an outdoor country music festival. After killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more, Paddock took his own life with a shot through his mouth, police say.
Investigators working around the clock remain frustrated by a lack of clues that would point to his motive. Authorities have resorted to putting up billboards in southern Nevada seeking tips and now the intensive brain study that medical experts say likely won’t yield definitive answers.
If a disease is found, experts say it would be false science to conclude it caused or perhaps even contributed to the massacre, even if that explanation would ease the minds of investigators and the world at large.
“There’s a difference between association and causality, and just because you have anything, doesn’t mean it does anything,” said Brian Peterson, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners and chief coroner of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County.
The microscopic study is not a standard practice but is regularly used as needed. Families sometimes request such a detailed examination to better understand their own genetic risks.
Peterson said it’s also common in high-profile cases such as Paddock’s, where so much is riding on the results that all forensic options must be exhausted.
Douglas Fields, a neuroscientist who studies the rage circuit in brain systems, said horribly violent events, such as mass shootings and terrorism, rarely involve actual brain abnormalities but can be triggered by psychiatric problems.
Perpetrators often are suicidal psychopaths who are motivated to commit heinous crimes because they have internalized their isolation and anti-social behavior as an existential threat for themselves, he said.
“When police look for motive, it’s kind of misplaced in cases like this because they appear to be crimes of rage. There’s no motive for crimes of rage. It’s a crime of passion,” Fields said.
One such case involved the University of Texas shooter Charles Whitman, who fatally shot 13 people in 1966 from a clock tower on the Austin campus. Whitman was found to have a pecan-sized tumor in his brain, though the suggestion that it caused his rampage is still debated decades later.
Peterson, who is not involved in the Paddock case, said an initial inspection that is standard for any autopsy would generally include dissecting the brain at one-centimeter intervals to look for issues identifiable to the trained eye — infection, tumor, symmetry, bleeding and blood vessel abnormality.
A further study would involve a microscopic focus on the tissue cells, such as using stains to determine different types of dementia and other degenerative diseases, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is sometimes found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma.
There also would likely be a review of the brain at a molecular level though DNA, Peterson said.
Experts say the brain study on Paddock will be a worthy effort for scientific reasons.
Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, a psychiatry expert at Columbia University, said that at minimum, it might yield something even tangential that can be passed on to the public, such as awareness for psychological disorders or brain diseases.
“Are we ever going to know for certain what caused his brain to do that?” Appelbaum asked. “Probably not from a neuropathological examination, but it’s not unreasonable to ask and see whether it might contribute to our understanding of what occurred.”


UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

Updated 5 min 8 sec ago

UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

  • Government says a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law
  • Opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament

LONDON: The British government was back at the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the country is set to leave the European Union was neither improper nor illegal.
It’s the second day of a historic three-day hearing that pits the powers of Britain’s legislature against those of its executive as the country’s scheduled Brexit date of Oct. 31 looms over its political landscape and its economy.
Government lawyer James Eadie argued that a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law. Eadie called the decision to shut down Parliament “inherently and fundamentally political in nature.”
He said if the court intervened it would violate the “fundamental constitutional principle” of the separation of powers between courts and the government.
“This is, we submit, the territory of political judgment, not legal standards,” Eadie said.
The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also accuse Johnson of misleading Queen Elizabeth II, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.
Johnson sent lawmakers home on Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before Britain’s Oct. 31 departure from the EU. He claims the shutdown was a routine measure to enable his Conservative government to launch a fresh legislative agenda and was not related to Brexit.
Eadie rejected claims that the prime minister was trying to prevent lawmakers from blocking his Brexit plans.
He said “Parliament has had, and has taken, the opportunity to legislate” against the government, and would have more time between Oct. 14 and Brexit day. He said even if Parliament didn’t come back until Oct. 31, “there is time” for it to act on Brexit.
The prime minister says Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal. But many economists and UK lawmakers believe a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and socially destabilizing. Members of Parliament have put obstacles in Johnson’s way, including a law compelling the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get a divorce deal with the EU.
Parliament’s suspension spared Johnson further meddling by the House of Commons but sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts gave contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the move was a political rather than legal matter but Scottish court judges ruled Johnson acted illegally “to avoid democratic scrutiny.”
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide who was right. The justices will give their judgment sometime after the hearing ends on Thursday.
A ruling against the government by the 11 Supreme Court judges could force Johnson to recall Parliament.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal remained “very real” because Britain had not produced workable alternatives to the deal agreed upon with the EU by ex-British Prime Minister Theresa May. That deal was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament, prompting May to resign and bringing Johnson to power in July.
“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker told the European Parliament. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”
Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, told members of the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France, that a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the UK, but it will never be ours.”
The EU parliament on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline if Britain requests it.
Any further delay to Britain’s exit — which has already been postponed twice — needs the approval of the 27 other EU nations.
Johnson has said he won’t delay Brexit under any circumstances — but also says he will respect the law, which orders the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by Oct. 19. He has not explained how that would be done.