Houston (AP) — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won't seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday.
"Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care," spokesman Jim McGrath said in a news release.
McGrath did not elaborate as to the nature of Bush's health problems. She has been treated for decades for Graves' disease, which is a thyroid condition, had heart surgery in 2009 for a severe narrowing of her main heart valve and was hospitalized a year before that for surgery on a perforated ulcer.
"It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others," McGrath said. "She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving."
Bush, who is at home in Houston, is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the nation's second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.
Bush married George H.W. Bush on Jan. 6, 1945. They had six children and have been married longer than any presidential couple in American history.
Eight years after she and her husband left the White House, Mrs. Bush stood with her husband as their son George W. was sworn in as the 43rd president.
President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement Sunday evening that "the President's and first lady's prayers are with all of the Bush family during this time."
Bush is known for her white hair and her triple-strand fake pearl necklace.
Her brown hair began to gray in the 1950s, while her 3 -year-old daughter Pauline, known to her family as Robin, underwent treatment for leukemia and eventually died in October
1953. She later said dyed hair didn't look good on her and credited the color to the public's perception of her as "everybody's grandmother."
Her pearls sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them to her husband's inauguration in 1989. The pearls became synonymous with Bush, who later said she selected them to hide the wrinkles in her neck. The candid admission only bolstered her common sense and down-to-earth public image.
Her 93-year-old husband, the nation's 41st president who served from 1989 to 1993, also has had health issues in recent years. In April 2017, he was hospitalized in Houston for two weeks for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. He was hospitalized months earlier, also for pneumonia. He has a form of Parkinson's disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility.
Before being president, he served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan's vice president.
Barbara Pierce Bush was born June 8, 1925, in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall's and Redbook magazines. She and George H.W. Bush married when she was 19 and while he was a young naval aviator. After World War II, the Bushes moved to Texas where he went into the oil business.
Along with her memoirs, she's the author of "C. Fred's Story" and "Millie's Book," based on the lives of her dogs. Proceeds from the books benefited adult and family literacy programs. The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy began during her White House years with the goal of improving the lives of disadvantaged Americans by boosting literacy among parents and their children. The foundation partners with local programs and has awarded more than $40 million to create or expand more than 1,500 literacy programs nationwide.
This story has been corrected to show George H.W. Bush is 93, not 94.
Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful life. It enabled her to retire at 32 with her family to a homestead in the Vermont woods
As I write this, Im sitting on the back porch of the rural Vermont homestead I share with my husband and our daughter, gazing out on the 66 acres of forest, fruit trees, gardens, ponds, and streams that we feel incredibly lucky to call our own.
Just a few years ago, this seemed like an impossible feat. My husband and I were struggling to conceive a baby and attempting to chart a path out of our frenzied 9-5 grind in urban Cambridge, Massachusetts. We wanted to achieve financial independence, quit the cubicle jobs that made us so unhappy, and create a simpler life of purpose in a rural setting.
My husband, Nate, and I are not exceptional people. Were not rich or famous or geniuses or even particularly good-looking (although we have our moments). Were just some average, middle-class kids from the midwest who decided we wanted something more out of life than what our consumer culture sells us.
While its true that Nate and I are average people, and weve never won the lottery or had investment banker salaries or been the beneficiaries of inheritances or trust funds, Im keenly aware that we are also extraordinarily privileged.
Both of our parents had college educations, had good careers, owned homes, and were in happy, financially stable marriages before we were even conceived. All of these privileges wove themselves together to form the basis for happy, warm, well-educated, well-cared-for childhoods.
But we realized that as adults we were trying to buy our way to happiness. In order to achieve deep fulfillment and lasting contentment, we had to restructure how we lived, what we spent our money on, and how we used our time.
Back in March 2014, on day one of this journey, Id seen frugality as the necessary means to our end. We would spend money only on the fundamentals of life, the very basest items to get us by (food, our mortgage, gas for the car, electricity, an internet connection, toilet paper, and the like).
But what I hadnt anticipated was that frugality would become an end in and of itself. After a year of living as modestly as possible, Nate and I began to feel like wed unlocked a map that led us out of our previous maze of mindless consumption.
Nate and I began to uncover far-reaching advantages to frugality that outstripped the mechanics of spending less cash and growing our net worth. Wed started out with an urgency around saving money, but it evolved to be about much more than that. It became a wholesale lifestyle transformation.
The satisfaction we derived from painting our own kitchen cabinets was the first tertiary benefit to frugality we discovered, and the second was close behind: doing this project together brought us closer in our marriage. For the first time since a group paper for our international elections course in college, Nate and I were team-mates on projects with tangible results.
Our modern culture has largely done away with the idea that a marriage or a civil union or a partnership is a working relationship, and instead touts the money-focused solution of Dont fight, hire out! The answer to our hectic, frenzied, compulsive lives isnt to simplify, its to pay other people to do stuff for us so that we can pile ever more on our already gluttonous to-do plates.
Barnaby Joyce quit as Australia’s deputy prime minister after having an extramarital affair with his former media adviser, leading to allegations that he breached ministerial guidelines.
Joyce, 50, said he will also step down as leader of the National party, the junior coalition partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government, but remain in parliament.
The resignation may relieve some pressure on Turnbull, whose ruling Liberal-National coalition has slumped further behind in opinion polls amid the scandal. The prime minister last week accused his deputy of making a “shocking error of judgment” after the story broke this month that Joyce was expecting a baby with his new partner Vikki Campion.
“It’s incredibly important that this be a circuit breaker not just on the parliament, but more importantly that it be a circuit breaker for Vikki, it be a circuit breaker for my unborn child, it be a circuit breaker for my daughters, it be a circuit breaker for Nat,” father-of-four Joyce said, referring to his now-estranged wife of 24 years, Natalie.
The revelations have damaged Joyce’s credibility as a family man and he’s also faced claims he allowed Campion to work in his and another ministerial office during the affair — potentially breaching the ministerial code of conduct.
Joyce said Friday that none of the “litany of allegations” had been sustained.
The issue has dominated headlines in Australian media this month, taking the spotlight away from the prime minister’s policy agenda, including his bid to legislate corporate and personal tax cuts. The affair has also spurred a debate about what parts of a parliamentarian’s life are private and should be off-limits to media reporting.
The Nationals will need to vote on a new party leader, with Michael McCormack, Darren Chester and David Littleproud expected to be among the frontrunners.
Turnbull, who is in the U.S. for talks with President Donald Trump, issued a statement thanking Joyce for his service and for being a “fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia.” He said John McVeigh would take on Joyce’s infrastructure and transport portfolio until the Nationals elect a new leader.
The son of sheep and dairy farmers, Joyce has led the rural-based Nationals for two years. He’s been a vocal critic of foreign investment by state-owned Chinese companies, and made international headlines in 2015 when he threatened to euthanize Johnny Depp’s Yorkshire terriers after the movie star brought the dogs into Australia, bypassing quarantine.
After her husbands suicide, Kate Harding was overwhelmed by guilt and shame
I have been a widow for 11 weeks. It seems surreal to be writing that sentence and yet it is true. I was there; I know. Richard killed himself at home while I was walking the dog with my daughter, while my son was lying metres away in his bedroom. As a consultant anaesthetist and intensivist (a specialist in the care of critically ill patients), Richard knew exactly what to do. He was 47.
I can report that a state of calm really does descend in such extreme circumstances, even in someone who fears emergencies as much as I do. As a hospice doctor, I am far more comfortable with death in its more expected, gentle forms. Nevertheless, it seemed perfectly normal to be attempting to resuscitate my husband at one point with my foot as I talked to the emergency operator. To be applying shock paddles once the community defibrillator had arrived. To be discussing adrenaline with the paramedics. To be putting a duvet over him and a pillow under his head and to be kissing him goodbye. To be helping the children to do the same, before he was taken away by the ambulance. To be giving my statement to the police. To be shutting the door on them, late at night, and for a moment teetering between my former life and the one to come, a darker version of the stroke of midnight separating the old year from the new.
Richard had been living with depression and was three days away from his first appointment with a psychiatrist for a medication review. His illness was triggered last year by a complaint about him to the General Medical Council (the first he had received), just as we packed the last of our possessions into a shipping container bound for New Zealand and signed away our house. Although the complaint was thrown out in due course, as we expected it to be, it took five months. The strain this put him under was immense.
He was unable to work abroad until the GMC could issue him a certificate of good standing, so we had to claw back the jobs from which we had resigned and tell our children they were returning to the schools they thought they had left. Finally, the all-clear was given and the paperwork completed. We boarded our flight to Auckland, vowing never to work in the NHS again.
But once we had made the move to Northland, the stress of the previous few months caught up with Richard and he entered a period of depression. He had had an episode in his early 20s, which had lasted for months, but there had been no recurrence.
He did well on antidepressants and made a positive impression on his new colleagues. He threw himself into his new coastal life and regained his energy and verve. In rapid succession, he acquired a boat, fishing rods, a fishing kayak, three types of roof rack and an unspeakably tight-fitting open-water swimming wetsuit, accessorised with a dapper hood. He was, for a time, a happy man.
Then, in July last year, his depression recurred. This time, the medication didnt work; in fact, it may have made things worse. Insomnia was a central feature, worsened by the frequency of his night-time call-outs, although he enjoyed his job and continued to perform well at work.
Privately, however, he worried a lot more about his clinical decisions. I dont think I will ever be the same person again, was a recurring phrase of his, in relation to the GMC complaint. Week after week, we waited for the drugs to start working. He consulted a psychologist. We waited some more. The psychologist suggested a psychiatrist. Another wait ensued. Richard lost patience with the process and took matters into his own hands. This is what anaesthetists do. Somehow, I had overlooked this, as well as his impulsiveness and his impatience character traits that had further heightened his risk of succumbing to his illness.
Paul Bocuse, who became one of the 20th century’s most influential chefs by building on the traditions of French haute cuisine with a distinctive style that emphasized simplicity and freshness, has died. He was 91.
He died Saturday at Collonges-au-Mont-d’or, the Associated Press said, citing a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron. Bocuse had Parkinson’s disease.
In lending his name and advice to restaurants around the world, Bocuse fashioned a template followed by chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Gordon Ramsay.
Bocuse “started things for this modern era of the chef as cultural star,” Michael Ruhlman wrote in “The Reach of a Chef,” his 2006 book. “Bocuse was really the first to play to the media and begin to elevate the chef’s standing toward what it is today.’
Yet he never lost touch with his roots, retaining three Michelin stars for more than four decades at his flagship establishment near his birthplace outside Lyon, France. Still on the menu is his most famous dish, Black Truffle Soup V.G.E.
He opened a chain of eateries, Les Brasseries Bocuse, across France. Not content with being a star at home, he traveled the world, lending his name to restaurants from Florida to Hong Kong, and acting as an ambassador for French cooking. He set up a scholarship with the Culinary Institute of America and founded the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest as well as an institute for culinary arts. He was also the author of several cookbooks, including La Cuisine du Marche, in 1980.
Bocuse said that he hadn’t revolutionized French cooking, only simplified it after a period marked by “the heavy meals and the rich sauces of the Escoffier school,” according to a 1972 article in the New York Times.
“First-rate raw materials are the very foundation of good cooking,” he said. “Give the greatest cook in the world second-rate materials and the best he can produce from them is second-rate food.”
Bocuse was born into a family of restaurateurs on Feb. 11, 1926, at Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, in eastern France, where the main food market is named after him. It was there that he shopped for produce from local characters such as the cheese maker Mere Richard and the pork butchers Colette Sibilia and Gast. His ancestors had been known for their cooking as far back as in 1765.
He went to work in 1942 in a restaurant in Lyon. In 1944, he enlisted in the First French Division and, in World War II combat, was shot in Alsace, where he received transfusions in an American field hospital. In later decades, especially as he became popular in the U.S., he enjoyed pointing out that he had American blood in him.
In 1948, he began work under chef Fernand Point, whose reliance on the freshest products available each day shaped Bocuse’s views.
In 1959, Bocuse saved the family restaurant from ruin and made L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges Restaurant Paul Bocuse a dining destination. It is there that you can still order Soupe aux Truffes Noires V.G.E., which Bocuse created in 1975 for then-President Valery Giscard d’Estaing at an Elysee Palace banquet.
In 1966, a year after winning his third Michelin star, Bocuse succeeded in buying back his great-grandparents’ old restaurant and placing it under the family wing. He named it the Abbaye de Collonges.
Bocuse was named a knight in the French Legion of Honor in 1975, and a commander in 2004.
He was married for more than 60 years to Raymonde, but unashamedly kept two long-term mistresses and enjoyed other liaisons, according to an interview in the Daily Telegraph.
“It would not be everyone’s idea of married life, but everyone gets on,” the newspaper quoted him as saying in 2005. “They are all happy, with me and with each other, and if I add up the time we have spent together as couples, it comes to 145 years.”
“These days I feel best surrounded by nature, beside my lake, with my dogs and friends,” Bocuse said in the interview at Collonges. “I regret nothing, save perhaps the pain I may have given the women of my life. I hope they will forgive me.”
Charles Manson, the imprisoned wild-eyed cult leader who masterminded the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six other people in Los Angeles, has died. He was 83.
Manson died of natural causes at 8:13pm Pacific time on Nov. 19 at Kern County Hospital, according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was serving a life sentence at a state prison in California.
A career criminal, Manson persuaded a drug-induced flock of followers — the so-called Manson family — that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that they would survive and rule the world after a racial apocalypse he called “Helter Skelter.” The name came from a Beatles song he viewed as prophetic.
Manson’s followers may have killed more than two dozen people by some reports, but criminal trials against him and his group focused on the savage killing spree that became known as the Tate-LaBianca murders.
With a focus on killing Hollywood celebrities, Manson ordered followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian to invade a Los Angeles home on Aug. 9, 1969, and kill its occupants.
In addition to Tate, the 26-year-old pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski, those killed from multiple stabbings and gunshots were writer and actor Wojciech “Voytek” Frykowski and his partner, the coffee bean heiress Abigail Folger; celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring and Steven Parent, a friend of Tate’s gardener. Polanski was in London working on a film.
Kasabian acted as the lookout and became the star witness against Manson, whose role in the killings was discovered by police while investigating other crimes. She was offered immunity for her testimony.
The killing of Tate, who starred in films such as “Valley of the Dolls,” was particularly gruesome. She was stabbed in the stomach by Atkins despite pleas to spare her unborn child, whose delivery date was near. Atkins used Tate’s blood to write the word “pig” on the front door.
The next night, Manson took Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten to the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, who were also murdered.
The trio stayed in the house for a while, eating food from the LaBianca’s refrigerator and playing with the couple’s dogs.
Atkins told fellow prisoners that the Manson family planned to kill other Hollywood stars to help trigger the racial apocalypse Manson predicted. She died in a women’s prison in 2009.
Manson’s trial began in June 1970. After a trial characterized by the giggling and grimaces of the defendants, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder in January 1971.
He was sentenced to death. California’s supreme court later ruled capital punishment illegal, and he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment. Manson, who carved a swastika into his forehead while in prison, was denied parole more than a dozen times.
“There’s no murder in a holy war,” he told Charlie Rose in a 1986 interview on “CBS News Nightwatch,” referring to Tate’s slaying.
Charles Maddox, whose crazed deeds would spawn a series of books, movies and documentaries, was born Nov. 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Kathleen Maddox, a 16-year-old alcoholic prostitute and Walker Scott. After her marriage to William Manson, Charles was given his step-father’s last name.
He made a living through crime, spending half of the first 32 years of his life behind bars. Manson was put in jail for armed robbery, arson, burglary, assault, mail theft, drug possession, forgery, credit-card fraud, receiving stolen property, pimping, grand theft auto and numerous parole violations.
After his release from prison in 1967, he became a cult guru in the San Francisco area as a prophet of the apocalypse and tried to pursue a career in music.
He was befriended by Dennis Wilson, the drummer in the Beach Boys band. Through this association, Manson got an opportunity to audition for record producer Terry Melcher, the son of singer and actress Doris Day. Melcher, who had rejected Manson’s bid to make a record, was the previous occupant of the Los Angeles house Polanski and Tate had rented, which was the site of the first murders.
In 1955, Manson married Rosalie Willis and had a son Charles Manson, Jr., who committed suicide in 1993. After their divorce, he married Leona Stevens and had a second son, Charles Luther Manson. He had a third son, Valentine Manson, with Manson family member Mary Brunner.
“The name Manson has become a metaphor for evil, and evil has its allure,” the prosecutor of the Tate-La Bianca case, Vincent Bugliosi, co-wrote in the best-selling book on the Manson case, “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.” “Some people have the same fascination for Jack the Ripper and Hitler.”
A month after Hurricane Maria battered this mountainous stretch of central Puerto Rico, recovery remained elusive along Highway 152, where 82-year-old Carmen Diaz Lopez lives alone in a home that’s one landslide away from plummeting into the muddy creek below.
Without electricity, and without family members to care for her, she’s become dependent on the companionship of a few neighbors who stop by periodically. But a collapsed bridge has made it challenging to even communicate with her friend across the creek, so she’s lived for the most part in solitude, passing the electricity-less days singing “Ave Maria” and classic Los Panchos songs to herself, lighting candles each night so she can find the bathroom.
“I just ask the Lord to take care of me, because he’s the only one I have,” Diaz Lopez said Wednesday.
Diaz Lopez and her neighbors along Kilometer 5 of this badly hit mountain road in Barranquitas municipality are among the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still at risk as the recovery effort heads into its fifth week. Pipe water returned here in a trickle a few days ago, and the collapsed earth that blocked the road and sent muck into homes has been half-way cleared. But a phone signal is still non-existent, and residents are far from any semblance of sustainable self-sufficiency.
The situation threatens to undermine the economic and fiscal future of the island, and is already fueling a flood of Puerto Ricans leaving for the mainland. At this stage in the recovery from the Category 4 storm, many find the current state of the U.S. commonwealth — home to some 3.4 million American citizens — unthinkable.
“I just haven’t seen a situation where people don’t have access to basic services for so long,” said Martha Thompson, the Puerto Rico response coordinator for the Boston-based charity Oxfam Americas who also worked on the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Meeting at the White House with the commonwealth’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration’s response to Maria deserves a perfect “10” rating. He also drew attention to the fiscal mess in Puerto Rico that predated the hurricane, suggesting he wants repayment of any reconstruction loans to take precedence over the island’s existing $74 billion debt that pushed it into bankruptcy.
Only tenuous, provisional measures seem to be preventing a much greater humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. A government task force has restored electricity to many hospitals and healthcare facilities, but others are sustained by diesel generators that occasionally fail. (APR Energy Chairman John Campion, whose company rents the units for natural disasters, said in an interview that such generators typically have a life span of 500 hours, and the crisis has already lasted longer than that.)
About 83 percent of residents and businesses — not just in the rural mountains, but across the island — are still without electricity.
As of Friday, one-in-three residents lacked running water, and only about half of cellular towers were operational. Meanwhile, the official death toll, currently at 49, keeps creeping higher, with 76 islanders still reported missing.
Many blame an insufficiently robust federal response, while authorities note the myriad logistical challenges that make the high-poverty island distinct from storm-battered states such as Florida or Texas.
Certainly, there have been improvements. In the days after the storm, the entire island appeared engulfed in pandemonium; the airport operated at a fraction of its normal capacity with leaky ceilings, no air conditioning or escalators; frantic islanders formed half-mile long lines for gas and diesel; and mayhem ensued on roads and highways, even in the capital, as people tried to dodge fallen trees and street lights.
This week, by contrast, the airport was back in operation, with a blast of cool air greeting new arrivals at the end of the jet bridge and slot machines in the terminals blinking and jingling. The roads around the capital have been largely cleared, as have many major highways.
But the reality remained very different in the mountains of central Puerto Rico. Back in Barranquitas, Erika Perez, 43, wondered how she would sustain her family. She lives just up the hill from Diaz Lopez with her husband, son and daughter, ages 52, 13 and 14, respectively. They have dogs, pigs and chickens, which supplied the eggs that kept the family fed during the early days after the storm, when the mudslides had completely boxed them in.
Perez said they’d been basically cut off for some 10 days, and she had worried about what would happen if her daughter’s asthma got bad.
Asked if she felt forgotten by the authorities, she gestured to a heap of trash that had been accumulating since even before the storm, insects circling. “We don’t ask for much, but at least give me that,” she said. “Help us out for sanitary purposes.”
Her husband had invested much of his time and money in plantain fields up the road, but the storm had obliterated much of the crop, and what was left had been stolen by those desperate for food. The family also ran a bar next door — frequented by Diaz Lopez, who said she went for the live music — but the prospects looked grim there, too, with no cars passing through the area.
The Puerto Rican economy was in a dire situation before the storm, and now it’s been reduced to a shadow of even that former self. Small business owners everywhere have been forced to trade their digital inventory systems and credit-card machines for old-fashioned paper and cash, and they’ve been grappling with how to keep tabs on employees.
“Everyone is in survival mode," said Gustavo Velez, an economist who runs the Inteligencia Economica consulting firm in San Juan. "There’s no work, no earnings. People are buying what they need for the day."
He said the situation will only snowball, fueling a massive exodus to the mainland, if the government can’t come up with resources and a viable plan. Governor Rossello has warned that millions could leave.
As for Diaz Lopez, she said she’ll keep looking after herself. She’s found a new apartment connected to an auto body shop up the hill and out of the path of mudslides; she’s just waiting for the owner to clear the space out so she can move in at a cost of $250 a month.
She was left alone on the island when her ex-husband died, her son was killed by a drug overdose and the last of her extended family moved to the mainland. She wondered why the authorities, local or federal, hadn’t done more for her. In the meantime, she said she knew how to do enough to stay healthy and safe during the long, dark nights.
“You’d think they’d say, ‘Here’s a woman on her own, an elderly woman, let’s go help her’,” she said, standing in the doorway of her home with her dog. “But I’ll be okay. I take life as it comes.”
Five days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Jeremiah Cottle, ashen-faced and unshaven, looks toward the four flags by his company’s front gate in Moran, Texas. There’s the Lone Star State flag, the Stars and Stripes, a POW-MIA one, and another with the green-and-black logo of his company, Slide Fire Solutions LP. Each flies at half-staff just inside a 10-foot-tall fence topped by razor wire. “My family was always here,” he says, motioning across the two-lane highway to the ranch with the Cottle sign out front. “So I built something, and a madman is taking it all away.”
What Cottle built is a multimillion-dollar empire based on the simple idea of converting a semiautomatic rifle into a weapon that can fire up to 800 rounds per minute, about the same as a fully automatic machine gun. The “madman” is Stephen Paddock, who investigators say had 12 so-called bump stocks in the arsenal he used to kill 58 people on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. Audio recordings captured the extraordinary rate of fire as Paddock shot into the crowd at a country music festival from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. The devices are fully legal in the U.S.
The story of how Cottle successfully navigated America’s gun laws to sell tens of thousands of bump stocks over the past six years says a lot about how permeable those laws are. It also sheds light on the protections federal law affords the gun industry against claims of liability when firearms are put to horrific use. Ironically, the argument Slide Fire used to get approval for its bump stocks may end up exempting it from those protections—an argument being used in the lawsuits that are already being filed by victims of the Las Vegas shooting. The sheer horror of the massacre, combined with the revelation that a simple device likely made the carnage much worse, seems to have altered the debate about gun violence, eroding Republican resistance to discussing gun control of any kind, if only temporarily.
In the following days, Republicans began talking about the need for action. Then on Oct. 5 the National Rifle Association, which for decades has fought any gun control measure, called for a review of bump stock regulations, albeit not a ban. That same day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump “would like to be part of that conversation,” but Congress would have to make any substantial change. Although incremental and even tepid, the NRA and GOP reactions are “a significant change in the debate over gun control in America,” says Steve Miller, a political science professor at Clemson University who studies public opinion on gun control. “We are seeing ardent gun control opponents giving in to some regulation, unlike what we saw in the aftermath of past mass shootings.”
Like many of the 250 people who live in Moran, about 150 miles west of Dallas, Cottle grew up shooting guns. After leaving the U.S. Air Force in 2005, he came up with an idea for a device that uses a rifle’s recoil, or bump, against a stiffened trigger finger to approximate automatic fire. He went down to his woodworking shop, and in about two hours he built a crude prototype out of some scrap wood, PVC pipe, and duct tape.
By mid-2010, Cottle was ready to start selling his device, but he first needed clearance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. To comply with federal law, he simply needed to demonstrate that the bump stock was itself not a machine gun. In a letter to the ATF, Slide Fire argued that its product was an accessory to help people with disabilities who had difficulty firing the AR-15, a semiautomatic civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle. The ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch ruled that the bump stock is a gun part, one that isn’t integral to the functioning of the weapon, and as such excluded it from federal firearm regulations, according to a June 7, 2010, letter from the bureau. Two years later the ATF made a similar determination in reviewing another bump stock maker’s device.
Armed with the ATF’s blessing, Cottle and his then-wife, Lora, started the company out of their bedroom and a shed where they kept the family dogs. They plowed $120,000 into the business, scraping money together from retirement savings, his veterans benefits, and selling guns and ammunition, according to records filed in relation to the couple’s divorce. To protect his investment, Cottle also filed multiple patents, claiming ownership over the bump stock design and invention.
Slide Fire’s bump stocks were an immediate hit. Within the first year, sales exceeded $10 million, and the company shipped more than 35,000 units. Slide Fire hasn’t disclosed sales since 2011, but considering the growth of the industry, there are likely tens if not hundreds of thousands of bump stocks in gun owners’ hands. To keep up with demand, Cottle built a 22,000-square-foot, near-windowless, corrugated-steel compound to serve as headquarters and an assembly plant on part of his family’s farm. He hired about two dozen people, including buddies from the Air Force, and housed some of them in trailers on the property. He even hired the town’s mayor and his wife to work in the plant. For Moran, a town that consists of little more than a few roads, a liquor store, a bank, and some clapboard homes and where most people work as ranch hands and in nearby oil fields, Slide Fire was a godsend to the local economy.
Cottle marketed his product heavily. One ad for gun magazines shows a child cradled under his father’s arm, firing an assault rifle next to a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Some YouTube reviews of the device drew almost 1 million views.
It wasn’t long before competitors cropped up with their own bump stocks, underpricing Slide Fire and cutting into its sales. Cottle fought back in court, suing at least five companies for allegedly stealing Slide Fire’s patented designs. The fiercest battle was against Miami-based Bump Fire Systems. Its product worked just like Slide Fire’s, only it was “lighter, just as durable, maybe even more so, and a lot cheaper! Instead of $400 for a Slide Fire you can get a Bump Fire for $100,” according to company social media posts filed in court.
Bump Fire managers told the court they’d hired subcontractors to make its bump stocks and that they had sold more than 2,000 in Texas alone, Slide Fire’s main market. In court, Slide Fire said Bump Fire’s price-cutting had cost it almost $4 million in sales. The legal fight went on for two years before Slide Fire won. In a settlement, Bump Fire agreed not only to stop selling bump stocks but to allow Slide Fire to take over its web assets, such as its social media accounts.
Although bump stocks weren’t widely known, they were extremely popular among enthusiasts. And because they aren’t subject to registration or limitations on how many you can buy, Paddock was able to buy at least a dozen of them. Now, politicians are aiming to curb their use. Within days of the shooting, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to effectively eliminate bump stocks by making it illegal to either sell or manufacture them.
This is hardly the first time Feinstein has proposed tighter gun laws. After the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, which left 20 children dead, she co-sponsored a bill to ban 120 types of assault and semiautomatic weapons. If passed, that bill would have effectively banned bump stocks by outlawing the sale of firearms with detachable stocks. Slide Fire helped lead opposition to the bill. In an op-ed published on April 1, 2013, in the , Laura Shackelford, Slide Fire’s chief executive manager at the time, wrote that such a ban would do nothing to reduce gun violence. It would, however, erode the constitutional right to bear arms, she wrote. Feinstein’s bill was defeated, 40 to 60.
Prices for bump stocks have skyrocketed since the Las Vegas massacre. A Slide Fire SSAR-15 OGR stock, which typically retails for $179.95, was bid up to $315 on the secondary gun marketplace GunBroker.com. After the NRA’s statement on Oct. 5, prices soared to $666. (Overwhelmed with orders, Slide Fire announced a hold on all new sales.)
Slide Fire is already under attack in the courts. Because bump stocks are an accessory without functioning mechanical parts, the company may fall outside the protections of a 2005 federal law shielding gun and ammunition makers from being held liable for gun violence. On Oct. 6 three victims of the shooting filed a class-action suit against Slide Fire and unnamed manufacturers, accusing the industry of negligence. “Paddock could not have injured so many people without a bump stock,” the complaint states.
The suit, filed on behalf of the victims by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Nevada state court, argues that bump stocks are an accessory under Slide Fire’s own definition and as such aren’t covered by the federal shield law. “A bump stock is not a firearm, and it is not ammunition,” says Avery Gardiner, chief legal officer of the Brady Center. “It does not qualify for immunity.” The suit aims to recover unspecified damages as well as funds to pay for the victims’ counseling, treatment for emotional distress, and some medical monitoring for everyone who attended the Las Vegas concert.
Back in Moran, Cottle stands outside the locked door of Slide Fire’s headquarters, looking like he’s still processing the shock of the past several days. His eyes are bloodshot and moist. He seems anxious, distraught, exhausted. “It’s been rough,” he says. “There are the death threats. People are coming after my kids. Words can’t describe,” he says, his voice trailing off. Asked whether he knows if Paddock bought any Slide Fire bump stocks, Cottle says he’s been going through sales records to find out. He declines to say if he’s been contacted by investigators. Asked whether he thinks his company can survive, given that even the NRA is zeroing in on the product he invented, he stares past the fence shaking his head. “I don’t know,” he says, just as a local TV truck creeps by. “I have to get back inside,” he says. “I’ve said too much.” And behind him, the door slams shut.
BOTTOM LINE – The Las Vegas massacre has put a spotlight on bump stocks and the man who invented them in 2010 in a tiny Texas town.