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About a week before his master left office, Sunny, a Portuguese Water Dog, bit a family friend just under her eye.

According to witnesses, the unidentified 18-year-old tried to give the dog a kiss, and the animal evidently interpreted her move as aggressive. After the animal was removed, White House physician Ronny Jackson attended to the victim by cleaning her wound and stitching up the large gash on her face. Reportedly, she may have a permanent facial scar as a result of the animal attack. The Obamas own two Portuguese Water Dogs — 4-year-old Sunny and 8-year-old Bo — who have never bit anyone before.

Some observers opined that the victim scared the dog, prompting the violent reaction.


Dog Bite Law


This incident underscores the fact that any animal can attack at any time for any reason, because Portuguese Water Dogs are generally known to be very family-friendly dogs that are especially good with children and for people with allergies.


Washington, D.C. basically has a modified one-bite rule, so unless the animal was “at large” when it attacked, victims must establish negligence to recover damages. Typically, this means that the owner knew the animal was dangerous and nevertheless decided to keep it. However, California is a strict liability state, so victims only have to prove cause to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages, as well as their emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other noneconomic damages. Given that many victims are children, these noneconomic damages tend to be substantial, because animal attacks often traumatize children who are entirely unaccustomed to such unexpected aggression. Special rules apply to minors as well, as outlined below.


The broad law is probably one of the reasons that the Golden State leads the nation in terms of dog bite homeowners’ insurance claims (1,684 in 2015) and value of claims ($76 million in 2015). Police dogs, military dogs, and trespassers are the only exceptions listed in Civil Code 3342; otherwise, dog owners are fully liable for all damages “suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place.” According to Sherwin Arzani, a dog bite attorney in Los Angeles, CA, “If your dog bites someone in California, you can almost certainly expect to pay damages to the injured victim.”


Some municipalities and counties expand the strict liability rule even further, applying it to caregivers, custodians, veterinarians, and other non-owners. If there is no such law, victims attacked while animals are in a non-owner’s custody must usually either prove negligence, or a lack of ordinary care, or scienter (“knowledge”), meaning that the custodian must have known that the animal was dangerous.


Insurance Company Defenses


As the name implies, there is basically no defense to liability under a strict liability law, unless one of the limited exceptions applies. However, the measure of damages is a different matter, and this is where insurance companies concentrate their efforts.


Many people probably noticed how, in the above story, some observers are quick to blame dog bite victims for provoking or scaring the animals. However, under California law, provocation has a very specific meaning. The insurance company must prove that the victim intentionally provoked the animal to attack, usually by prodding it or using some other action. Words alone are normally insufficient, and non-violent actions that the dog misinterprets are nearly always insufficient as well. Moreover, very young children (usually those under age 5) cannot provoke dogs as a matter of law.


If the victim legally provoked the animal by inflicting pain that was so intense as to justify a violent response in the animal, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis, such as 50-50 or 70-30 or whatever. Since California is a pure comparative fault state, the judge will then reduce the plaintiff’s damages by the proportion of contributory negligence.
In scienter and negligence cases, assumption of the risk might be a factor. To disprove negligence, the defendant must prove that the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. If the attack occurred in a public place, the involuntariness prong is probably not present; if the victim did not actually know that the dog was dangerous, the defense is also inapplicable.


President Barack Obama has announced that the US will not hesitate to take action against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria as well as Iraq.

In a nationally televised speech outlining his strategy against ISIS, Barack Obama said that any group that threatened America would “find no safe haven”.

The president also announced that 475 US military personnel would be sent to Iraq but said they would not have a combat role.

ISIS controls large parts of Syria and Iraq after a rapid military advance.

Its fighters have become notorious for their brutality, beheading enemy soldiers and Western journalists on video.

The US has launched over 150 air strikes against the group in Iraq and provided arms to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting against IS.

In a 15-minute speech shown at peak time in the US, Barack Obama vowed that America would lead “a broad coalition to roll back” ISIS.

“Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – the previous name for ISIS] targets as Iraqi forces go on the offense” he said.

Barack Obama has announced that the US will not hesitate to take action against Islamic State militants in Syria as well as Iraq

Barack Obama has announced that the US will not hesitate to take action against Islamic State militants in Syria as well as Iraq (photo AFP)

He said he would welcome congressional approval for the fight against ISIS but said that he had the authority to act without it.

Barack Obama was elected in part because of fervent opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and presided over the US troop pullout from the country.

In 2013, the president abandoned plans to launch airstrikes in Syria against government forces after congressional opposition.

In his speech, Barack Obama ruled out working with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, despite the fact that his forces are also engaged in fighting ISIS.

“In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people: a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost” he said.

Instead, Barack Obama said, the US would seek to strengthen the non-ISIS Syrian opposition, which fights against both ISIS and President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s Western-backed National Coalition welcomed Barack Obama’s plan, and urged Congress to approve it.

“The Syrian Coalition… stands ready and willing to partner with the international community not only to defeat [ISIS] but also rid the Syrian people of the tyranny of the Assad regime,” its president Hadi al-Bahra said in a statement, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Secretary of State John Kerry is already in the Middle East trying to build a coalition against IS.

John Kerry was in Iraq on Wednesday, where he praised the new government’s plans to involve more Sunnis in government and heal ties with the Kurds.

He said the president’s strategy “will succeed because doing it with allies and partners isn’t just smart, it’s strong”.

Barack Obama has already authorized $25 million in aid for the Iraqi military.

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President Barack Obama will unveil plans on Monday to reduce the massive US deficit by about $3.6 trillion over the next 10 years, with about half of the savings expected to come from higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

US president will unveil the new proposals at the White House and they will be submitted to a congressional “super-committee” that was created in August to draw up a deficit-reduction plan. The massive cuts plan will reach some important points such as:

Barack Obama unveils the plan to reduce the massive US deficit by about $3.6 trillion over the next 10 years

Barack Obama unveils the plan to reduce the massive US deficit by about $3.6 trillion over the next 10 years

Tax increases

Obama’s plans would include roughly $1.5 trillion in tax increases aimed mainly at wealthy Americans and corporations, people familiar with the proposal said. It isn’t fair to those living at or below their means who are saving receipts, researching tax credits, and using every possible tax calculator available, while the wealthy barely have to lift a finger. The president is set to unveil a “Buffett tax” aimed at those earning $1 million or more a year and named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a persistent critic of low tax rates for the rich.

$800 billion in savings would come from allowing George Bush’s tax cuts for wealthy Americans to expire.

Another $700 billion would come from ridding the tax code of special breaks. Obama has proposed limiting deductions for higher-income households and eliminating breaks for oil and gas companies and firms that purchase corporate jets.

Retirement benefits

Barack Obama’s plan would avoid large-scale cuts in big middle-class entitlement programs such as the social security retirement program and the Medicare health plan for older Americans.

The cuts plan includes $248 billion in savings from the Medicare health program. Many of the cuts would come from reduced payments to health providers. US president will also recommend roughly another $330 billion in savings from other entitlement programs.

Administration officials said Barack Obama will pledge to veto any plan to cut benefits for Medicare recipients unless the wealthy and big corporations are required to pay their “fair share” of taxes.

The plan would not raise the age at which retirees become eligible for Medicare benefits.

Barack Obama also will not propose any changes to social security.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars

The plan assumes $1.1 trillion in savings from winding down the war in Iraq and moving ahead with planned troop reductions from Afghanistan. Critics are likely to label this element of the plan a “gimmick” because it does not represent new policy but instead reflects drawdowns of US forces that have already been announced.

Interest payments

The plan assumes $430 billion in savings on interest payments following the cuts elsewhere in the budget.