May 2022 News, Views

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in May 2022

 

May 31

Top Headlines

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

 

More On School Shootings

 

More On Ukraine War

 

More On Special Counsel's Courtroom Defeat

 

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy


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World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

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U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial began with jury selection on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC's federal court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Sussmann, who offered allegations about Trump in 2016, acquitted of lying to FBI, Devlin Barrett, May 31, 2022. A jury cleared Sussmann, a lawyer for Democrats, of lying to the FBI at the height of the 2016 campaign -- a defeat for Special Counsel John Durham; The verdict is a defeat for Special Counsel John Durham, appointed three years ago by then-Attorney General William Barr.

A federal jury found Michael Sussmann, an attorney for Democrats including the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, not guilty of lying to the FBI when he brought them allegations against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race.

Tuesday’s verdict was a major setback for Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration and has spent three years probing whether the federal agents who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign committed wrongdoing.

Sussmann was the first person charged by Durham to go to trial. Another person charged in the investigation is due to face a jury later this year.

The Sussmann jury began deliberating Friday, weighing the testimony of current and former FBI officials, former Clinton campaign advisers, and technology experts. In closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that Sussmann thought he had “a license to lie” to the FBI at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign. Sussmann’s attorneys countered that the case against their client was built on a “political conspiracy theory.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Sussmann Is Acquitted in Case Brought by Trump-Era Prosecutor, Charlie Savage, May 31, 2022. The Democratic-linked lawyer was accused of lying about his clients to the F.B.I. when he passed on a tip about possible connections between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

Michael Sussmann, a prominent cybersecurity lawyer with ties to Democrats, was acquitted on Tuesday of a felony charge that he lied to the F.B.I. about having no client in 2016 when he shared a tip about possible connections between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

The verdict was a blow to the special counsel, John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration three years ago to scour the Trump-Russia investigation for any wrongdoing.

The case centered on odd internet data that cybersecurity researchers discovered in 2016 after it became public that Russia had hacked Democrats and Mr. Trump had encouraged the country to target Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The researchers said the data might reflect a covert communications channel using servers for the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked bank. The F.B.I. briefly looked at the suspicions and dismissed them.

On Sept. 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann brought those suspicions to a senior F.B.I. official. Prosecutors accused him of falsely telling the official that he was not there on behalf of any client, concealing that he was in fact working for both Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and a technology executive who had brought him the tip.

Mr. Durham and his trial team used court filings and trial testimony to detail how Mr. Sussmann, while working for a Democratic-linked law firm and logging his time to the Clinton campaign, had been trying to get reporters to write about the Alfa Bank suspicions.

But trying to persuade reporters to write about such suspicions is not a crime. Mr. Sussmann’s guilt or innocence turned on a narrow issue: whether he made a false statement to a senior F.B.I. official at the 2016 meeting, by saying he was sharing those suspicions on behalf of no one but himself.

Mr. Durham used the case to put forward a larger conspiracy: that there was a joint enterprise to essentially frame Mr. Trump for collusion with Russia by getting the F.B.I. to investigate the suspicions so reporters would write about it — a scheme involving the Clinton campaign; its opposition research firm, Fusion GPS; Mr. Sussmann; and a cybersecurity expert who brought the odd data and analysis to him.

That insinuation thrilled supporters of Mr. Trump who share his view that the Russia investigation was a “hoax,” and have sought to conflate the actual inquiry with sometimes thin or dubious allegations. In reality, the Alfa Bank matter was a sideshow: The F.B.I. had already opened its inquiry on other grounds before Mr. Sussmann passed on the tip, and the final report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, made no mention of the Alfa Bank suspicions.

But the case Mr. Durham and his team used to float their broad insinuations was thin — one count of making a false statement in a meeting with no other witnesses or contemporaneous notes. The evidence and arguments the lead prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, and his colleagues marshaled fell flat with the 12 jurors, who voted unanimously to find Mr. Sussmann not guilty.

Some supporters of Mr. Trump had been bracing for that outcome, pointing to the District of Columbia’s reputation as a heavily Democratic area and putting forward the prospect that a jury might be politically biased against a Trump-era prosecutor trying to convict a defendant who was working for the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Durham expressed disappointment about the verdict but said he respected the decision by the jury, which deliberated for about six hours.

“I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case,” he said in a statement.

Shortly after the verdict, Mr. Sussmann read a brief statement to reporters outside the courthouse, expressing gratitude to the jury, his defense team and those who supported him and his family during what had been a difficult year. He did not take any questions.

“I told the truth to the F.B.I., and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today,” he said, adding: “Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.”

The defense, which portrayed prosecutors’ insinuations as “political conspiracy theories,” had argued that Mr. Sussmann only brought the matter to the F.B.I. when he thought The New York Times was already on the cusp of writing an article about the matter, to give the bureau a heads-up so it would not be caught flat-footed.

Clinton campaign officials testified during the trial they had not told or authorized him to go to the F.B.I. — and that doing so was against their interests sean berkowitz michael bosworth jip IMG 8260because they did not trust the bureau and it could slow down the publication of any article.

In a statement, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, two of Mr. Sussmann’s defense lawyers [shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo leaving the courthouse, with Berkowitz in the foreground), criticized Mr. Durham for bringing the indictment.

“Michael Sussmann should never have been charged in the first place,” they said. “This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach. And we believe that today’s verdict sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: Politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.”

National Public Radio (NPR), Special Counsel Durham fails first courtroom test in his three-year probe, Carrie Johnson, May 31, 2022. A jury in Washington, D.C., has acquitted lawyer Michael Sussmann on a single charge of lying to the FBI, dealing a blow to the three-year investigation by special counsel John Durham.

npr logoJurors deliberated over two days before delivering the verdict to a courtroom filled with the defendant's family and members of the news media.

Durham, in a statement, said that "while we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury's decision."

"I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case," he said.

The Trump administration appointed Durham to investigate the origins of the "Mueller probe" – the federal government's investigation into possible links between former President Donald Trump and Russia. This was the first case from that investigation to be heard by a jury.

The two-week trial featured witnesses with prominent political ties including election lawyer Marc Elias, former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, and several former FBI and Justice Department officials who served in key roles in 2016.

 "We're not here to relitigate the 2016 election," Judge Christopher Cooper told the jury pool. "Donald Trump's not on trial. Hillary Clinton's not on trial."

But Durham's special counsel team had argued Sussmann wanted to deliver an October surprise that could change the outcome of the presidential election six years ago, by pushing the FBI to investigate questionable links between a Russian bank and a computer server tied to the Trump Organization. Federal agents testified the allegations lacked merit.

The single criminal count stemmed from a meeting Sussmann brokered with then FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016, only weeks before the election. Sussmann was accused of lying to Baker about whether he appeared on behalf of Democratic clients such as the Clinton campaign or a technology executive named Rodney Joffe.

"No one should be so privileged as to be able to walk into the FBI and lie for political ends," prosecutor Brittain Shaw told the jury. "The FBI should never be used as a political pawn."

In the months before the trial, prosecutors belatedly asked Baker to sift through his electronics for relevant evidence. Baker found a text from Sussmann, who typed that he was coming on his own – "not on behalf of any client or company."

Because the material was discovered so late, Sussmann faced only a charge of lying about their in-person meeting the following day. On that essential question, Baker took no notes from the meeting and offered inconsistent testimony over the years. Defense lawyers pointed out that on the witness stand, Baker said he failed to remember things 116 times.

"Do you think Mr. Sussmann would throw his career away, his life away, to tell a lie to that guy?" asked defense attorney Michael Bosworth.

Prosecutors produced a Staples receipt for thumb drives they said Sussmann had billed to the Clinton campaign, as well as calendar entries and other bills from Perkins Coie, the law firm where the defendant had worked until his indictment.

The defense focused in on taxi receipts, apparently to and from the FBI meeting, which Sussmann had not billed to clients with Democratic ties.

The case has been closely watched as the first courtroom test for the Durham probe, launched by former Attorney General Bill Barr amid hostile tweets from then President Trump about the investigation into Russia's election interference in 2016.

Durham secured a guilty plea from an FBI lawyer who ultimately avoided prison time. Another one of his cases is scheduled to go to trial in Virginia later this year against Igor Danchenko, a Russian citizen and former think tank employee who faces five charges for allegedly lying to the FBI.

Danchenko, who is fighting the charges, is accused of lying about the sources of the information he provided to former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, for what became the Steele dossier.

fox news logo SmallFox News, Michael Sussmann found not guilty of charge brought by Special Prosecutor John Durham, Brooke Singman, Jake Gibson and David Spunt, May 31, 2022. Sussmann had been accused of lying to the FBI.

alpha bank logo russiaThe jury on Tuesday found Michael Sussmann not guilty of making a false statement to the FBI in September 2016 when he said he was not working on behalf of any client, when he brought information alleging a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

After a two week trial, and more than a day of deliberations, the jury found that Special Counsel John Durham’s team had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sussmann’s statement was a lie, and that he was, in fact, working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and technology executive Rodney Joffe when he brought two thumb drives and a white paper alleging a Trump-Russia connection.

Sussmann was charged with one count of making a false statement to the FBI during his meeting with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker on Sept. 19, 2016.

In remarks following the verdict, Sussmann said that he had been falsely accused.

"I told the truth to the FBI, and the Jury clearly recognized this in their unanimous verdict today," he said. "I’m grateful to the members of the jury for their careful thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused I believe that Justice ultimately prevailed in my case. As you can imagine this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal."

Durham issued a terse statement expressing his office's disappointment.

"While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service," Durham said. "I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case."

 

uvalde victims

ny times logoNew York Times, States Rush Toward New Gun Restrictions as Congress Remains Gridlocked, Shawn Hubler and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Democratic leaders are demanding immediate action after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In Republican-controlled statehouses, the reaction is the opposite. The moves come amid waning hope for congressional consensus on gun violence and other American social issues.

Congress failed to impose gun restrictions after the school massacres in Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., and there’s little confidence that 21 deaths at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, will change matters now.

But states aren’t waiting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy urged lawmakers to advance firearms safety measures, including raising the age to 21 for purchases of long guns and exposing gun makers to civil lawsuits.

In New York — where an 18-year-old in Buffalo was charged two weeks ago with committing a racist mass shooting — Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would seek to ban people under 21 from purchasing AR-15-style rifles.

And in California — where a politically motivated mass shooting erupted at a luncheon of older churchgoers this month — legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom fast-tracked tougher controls on firearms.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 11 mass shootings so far during holiday weekend, Annabelle Timsit, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). And since the Uvalde shooting on Tuesday, there have been at least 14 other shootings that had four victims or more.

After a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers last week, many politicians, public figures and gun-control advocates said the U.S. government should ensure mass shootings could not happen again.

But mass shootings have already happened again — and again. At least 14 mass shootings have taken place across the United States since Tuesday, from California to Arizona to Tennessee.

This Memorial Day weekend alone — spanning Saturday, Sunday and the federal holiday on Monday — there have been at least 11 mass shootings.

 

jacinda ardern march 16 press conference

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to host New Zealand’s PM, the Fed’s Powell and South Korea’s BTS, John Wagner and Amy B Wang, May 31, 2022. President Biden will have parade of visitors coming through the Oval Office at the White House: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, above, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and South Korean superstar pop group BTS.

Each visit has a noteworthy angle: New Zealand moved swiftly to change its gun laws after a 2019 mass shooting. Powell and Biden have a shared agenda of taming inflation. And Biden and members of BTS are scheduled to discuss a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination that began in the early stages of the pandemic.

joe biden resized oNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who’s visiting President Biden at the White House on Tuesday, oversaw swift passage of gun control measures in her country after the mass shootings at mosques in the city of Christchurch in 2019, including a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons.

“We are a very pragmatic people. When we saw something like that happen, everyone said, ‘Never again.’ And so then it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that,” Ardern said during an appearance last week on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

“Now, we have legitimate needs for guns in our country for things like peace control and to protect our biodiversity, but you don’t need a military-style semiautomatic weapon to do that. And so we got rid of that,” Ardern added.

The reforms in New Zealand also included a firearms buyback program.

The White House has billed the visit between Biden and Ardern as an opportunity to advance the U.S.-New Zealand partnership and their shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. In a statement last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the meeting would also touch upon “countering terrorism and radicalization to violence both off and online.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas’s romance with guns tested by Uvalde massacre, Holly Bailey and Joshua Lott, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). For years, even as mass shootings swept the country, Richard Small bristled at any talk of tighter gun restrictions, viewing it as nothing more than politically driven finger-pointing that would do little to stop the violence while infringing on his rights as a gun owner.

But then, the 68-year-old retired high school history teacher saw a photo of one of the young victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a pleasant little town that he’d visited frequently when he coached youth football.

texas map“He looked like my grandson. I mean, they could have been twins. They have the same face,” Small said, his voice shaky with emotion. “It just stirred something in me.”

On Saturday night, Small, a self-described “devout NRA Republican,” did what he acknowledges would have been unthinkable days earlier. He unlocked his gun cabinet and pulled out his AR-15, similar to the one used by the gunman in Uvalde. He drove to his local police department and turned it in.

“I’m a gun advocate. I believe in the Second Amendment. But this AR, after what I saw in Uvalde, I’m done with it,” Small said as he turned the rifle over to an officer with the Charlotte police department. “I’m sick over it.”

Guns have long been an inextricable part of Texas culture — tightly woven into small towns like Uvalde, a predominantly Latino community of about 16,000 about an hour north of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Here, children are raised to hunt and shoot from a young age, and many residents — including family members of the victims — say they own guns for their own protection. It is an affinity that cuts across the partisan lines that typically define the gun debate in other parts of the country.

 

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to victims of the Uvalde school massacre in Texas on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Mandel Ngan of AFP via Getty Images).

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to victims of the Uvalde school massacre in Texas on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Mandel Ngan of AFP via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Do something!’ ‘We will,’ Biden told crowd in Uvalde, Peter Jamison, Amy B Wang, Teo Armus and Seung Min Kim, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects here Sunday amid a sea of flowers, coming face to face with oversize photos of the 19 children and two teachers killed during the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

The first couple stood in silence, reading the names of the victims and touching each portrait, ringed with white roses. Nearby, white crosses staked into the ground outside the school were painted with the names of each of the victims.

Jill Biden placed her hand gently on some of the photos, as if to pat the children on their shoulders. The president wiped away a tear.

They had traveled to Uvalde on Sunday to follow a familiar ritual after an American massacre: praying, trying to comfort victims’ families and survivors, and meeting with first responders.

Less than a week ago, distraught parents had paced the same grounds of Robb Elementary School as the shooting was unfolding. It became public later that the parents shouted and pleaded with law enforcement officers to let them into the school — to do something to save their children.

In the days since, the president had forcefully condemned the “carnage” of American gun violence, called for stricter gun laws and lamented the loss of life.

On Sunday, though, Biden mourned mostly in silence, attuned to the heavy grief that had settled over the school site and a community in pain.

At one point, Biden embraced Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary, in front of the brick sign welcoming visitors to campus Greg Abbott Customin English and Spanish. Others who joined the Bidens to pay respects at the memorial included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), right, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.) and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin. Some in the crowd booed when they saw the governor and chanted, “Vote him out!”

The White House invited Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and notified Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) of the president’s visit, a spokesman said, but neither man was with Biden on Sunday.

After the school visit, the first couple attended Mass at Sacred Heart, Uvalde’s only Catholic church, where they were greeted by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.

As the Bidens entered the sanctuary and made their way to the front pew, Jill Biden lightly touched the hands of several people seated along the aisle. About 600 people filled the pews. A violinist and a pianist played “Ave Maria” and other inspirational songs before the service started.

“Our hearts are broken,” García-Siller said as the service commenced. He invited children to come to the front of the church and sit on the floor. They were the ones, he told them directly, who would help the community heal.

As the Bidens left the church, another crowd of spectators gathered to watch their departure.

“Do something!” someone in the crowd yelled. Biden had already reached the presidential limousine. He stood at the open door and replied: “We will.”

 

 

michael flynn djt

BuzzFeedNews, Investigation: Michael Flynn’s Identity Was Not Improperly Revealed By Obama Officials, A Secret DOJ Report Has Found, Jason Leopold  and Ken Bensinger, May 31, 2022. The 52-page document was obtained by BuzzFeed News in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

A Justice Department probe found that members of the Obama administration did not seek to reveal the identity of Michael Flynn “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons,” a newly disclosed report reveals.

The document details the results of a monthslong investigation into the so-called unmasking of Flynn, who briefly served as national security adviser to then-president Donald Trump (shown together above in a file photo) before he resigned in February 2017 in the wake of the revelation that he had lied about phone conversations he held with Russia’s ambassador to the US.john bash

Republicans later accused officials in the Obama administration of using their positions to reveal anonymized names in classified documents, known in the intelligence community as unmasking, in order to target individuals in Trump’s orbit. In May 2020, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, ordered an investigation into the practice of unmasking. That review, conducted by John Bash, right — at the time the US attorney for the Western District of Texas — was finished the following September without finding any evidence of wrongdoing.

Although Bash’s conclusions, including his decision not to prosecute anyone, were first reported in late 2020, the report itself has not previously been seen by the public. The full 52-page document, which had been classified top secret, was obtained by BuzzFeed News in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and is being shared here for the first time in its entirety.

The probe was one of several ordered up by Barr scrutinizing the origins of federal investigations into ties between Trump and the Russian government. On Tuesday, a federal jury acquitted a Democratic lawyer who had been charged with lying to the FBI in one of those probes, overseen by special prosecutor John Durham.

In his case, Bash employed a team of two prosecutors, three FBI agents, and one FBI analyst to review unmasking requests made to the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the FBI between March 1, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017, and to conduct interviews with 20 government employees involved in intelligence briefings. He examined whether anyone in the Obama administration had improper motives when seeking to reveal the true identities of US citizens — including Flynn — whose names were not disclosed in classified intelligence reports.
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Bash, who left the Justice Department in October 2020, found no such activity.

“My review has uncovered no evidence that senior Executive Branch officials sought the disclosure of” the identities of US individuals “in disseminated intelligence reports for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons during the 2016 presidential-election period or the ensuing presidential-transition period,” Bash’s report says.

A central focus of the probe was the leak showing that Flynn had been in communication with then–Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump’s inauguration, and whether Flynn’s involvement was revealed through an unmasking request from a government official.

But Bash’s review of unmasked intelligence reports about the calls found that the FBI did not in fact disseminate any that contained Flynn’s information, and that a single unmasked report that did contain Flynn’s information did not describe the calls between him and Kislyak. “For that reason, the public disclosure of the communications could not have resulted from an unmasking request,” Bash’s report concludes.

Intriguingly, the prosecutor did find that “the FBI shared transcripts of the relevant communications outside the Bureau without masking General Flynn’s name,” but notes that he did not investigate those incidents any further because “evaluating that dissemination, and determining how the information was provided to the media, is beyond the scope of this review.” Bash's report contains no information about who shared those transcripts and who received them.

Although Bash writes that he had not found a justification to conduct a criminal investigation into anyone who was involved in the unmasking process, he says he was “troubled” by “how easy it is for political appointees of the incumbent administration to obtain nonpublic information about individuals associated with a presidential campaign or a transition team.”

“There exists a significant potential for misuse of such information— misuse that could be difficult to detect,” Bash writes. His report recommends that the intelligence community should consider implementing “certain prophylactic safeguards for unmasking requests that relate to presidential campaigns or transitions, including a more demanding substantive standard for granting those requests, special notification requirements, and a centralized approval process.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Europe Seeks New Ways to Aid Ukraine as Fight Rages in East, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Marc Santora, May 31, 2022.  European Union leaders continued a two-day summit aimed at raising the invasion’s cost to Russia and bolstering the battered Ukrainian economy. The two armies traded barrages of artillery fire and fought battles in the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk region. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: After Months of Debate, European Leaders Agree to Ban Most Russian Oil Imports, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Richard Pérez-Peña, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). A draft of the agreement allows pipeline imports, in a nod to Hungary’s complaints. Even still, it would be the toughest action yet over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

european union logo rectangleThe European Union on Monday agreed to ban most imports of Russian oil, the harshest economic penalty yet imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and potentially the biggest sacrifice by Europe, itself.

The deal is the latest and most far-reaching demonstration that over more than three months of war, in reaction to mounting Russian aggression and atrocities, European leaders have grown willing to take steps they considered too extreme when the ukraine flaginvasion began. They have already barred imports of Russian natural gas, cut off Russian banks from global financial networks, frozen Russian assets and sent advanced weaponry to Ukraine.

In related news, Ukraine’s victory at the Eurovision Song Contest brought national pride, joy and artistic prestige to the country amid the devastation of war. Now, it will also help supply drones to the Ukrainian army.

Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian band that won Eurovision after sweeping the phone-in popular vote, put its trophy and the pink bucket hat worn by its lead singer during the contest up for auction, and the items netted more than $1.2 million, the band’s spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia seizes half of key city Severodonetsk, Adela Suliman, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis, May 31, 2022. McDonald’s to get new name in Russia as part of sale; Russian forces said to hold ‘around half’ of Severodonetsk.

Russian forces now control “around half” of Severodonetsk, one of the last major Ukrainian-held areas of the country’s eastern Luhansk region, local officials said. Capturing the whole city would be a major symbolic victory for Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s combat power is at “maximum” strength in its push to capture the wider Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk.

A Ukrainian court found two Russian soldiers guilty of shelling civilian sites during fighting in Kharkiv and sentenced them Tuesday to 11 ½ years in prison. It was the second verdict handed down in a war crimes trial in Ukraine since the conflict began. Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova announced at a news conference Tuesday that Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia will join a joint effort by several eastern European countries and the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

The European Union announced late Monday its long-awaited deal to curtail use of Russian oil, a move it said would cut some 90 percent of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year. The agreement is softened by an exemption for pipeline oil, a concession to landlocked E.U. members, notably Hungary.

Here’s what else to know

  • Zelensky sent his condolences to the family of French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was killed in eastern Ukraine when a Russian strike hit an armored evacuation truck he was traveling in.
  • Zelensky has denounced Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian ports for halting the export of 22 million tons of grain. He accused the Kremlin of using African and Asian countries as “bargaining chips.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed the need to establish a safe passage for sea exports of grain.

 

More On School Shootings

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The X factor in the Uvalde massacre, Wayne Madsen, May 31, 2022. Although the massacre of 19 elementary school students and two of their wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallteachers by a crazed 18-year old "incel" in Uvalde, Texas has justifiably reignited debate on banning the deadly AR-15 assault rifle used in the mass murder, there is another factor at play in the border region of south Texas.

The fact that Uvalde, a town that is over 80 percent Hispanic with a third of its children living in poverty, has a right-wing four-term Republican mayor, a police force that failed to intervene to save the lives of the mostly Hispanic children at school, and a member of the U.S. House who is a Donald Trump supporter is emblematic of a larger issue currently plaguing south Texas and other regions of the country with large Hispanic populations.

wayne madesen report logoMany of Uvalde's Hispanics are direct descendants of the original Texans, or "Texicans," who were present in the region before Texas became an independent republic and a state. A large number of the Texicans share with their white Republican friends a disdain for the more recent arrivals from Mexico and they have formed an unlikely political coalition that has helped turn Texas into a solidly Republican state. This new political configuration was witnessed in the 2020 election, which saw an increase in Hispanic support for Trump in the borderlands of south Texas.'

washington post logoWashington Post, Bouquets and tiny caskets: Town starts to bury its dead, Annie Gowen and Teo Armus, May 31, 2022. In Uvalde, Tex., the first days of anger and grief over the massacre, made worse by catastrophic mistakes by police, gave way to a cycle of visitations, rosaries and funerals that began Monday and will stretch until June 16.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elected officials vow to examine flawed police response in Uvalde, push for changes to gun laws, Ellen Nakashima and Paulina Villegas, May 31, 2022. Fourth-grader recounts asking president to ‘make our schools safer and send more police.'

As mourners in Uvalde, Tex., prepared to bury 19 children and two teachers, elected officials vowed Monday to examine last week’s elementary school massacre and the flawed police response, and drive changes to gun laws.

President Biden, who spent nearly four hours Sunday visiting with the families of Uvalde victims, told reporters he would not give up on efforts to achieve “common-sense” gun legislation.

“The folks who were victimized, their families, they spent three hours and 40 minutes with me. They waited all that time. Some came two hours early,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “The pain is palpable. I think a lot of it is unnecessary. I’m going to continue to push.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: My generation has to stand up against gun violence, Yolanda Renee King, May 31, 2022. Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is an activist and eighth-grader.

I never met my grandfather the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. because he was taken from my family by gun violence. But I know the mark that he and my grandmother Coretta Scott King left on American history. I know that the challenges my generation faces resemble those that led my grandparents to march on Washington and other cities to demand change.

I am 14 years old, and once again I am afraid. Two major mass shootings in 10 days. In Buffalo, our elders, many of whom share the same complexion as me, were gunned down while simply shopping for groceries. In Uvalde, Tex., 19 children not too much younger than me were murdered in their school.

Enough is enough.

Most people won’t take a 14-year-old seriously when it comes to addressing gun violence. What do I know, right? Well, I know when it is time for change. I know it is my duty as an American to use the platform given to me by my grandparents’ sacrifices to uplift the voices of my peers. It is my duty to speak up as a child who lost both her grandfather and great-grandmother to gun violence. For too long, voices like mine have gone ignored.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida’s GOP beat the gun lobby. Congress hasn’t followed, Mike DeBonis, May 28, 2022. In 2018, Florida banned weapons sales to those younger than 21, imposed a three-day waiting period and created a “red flag” law. Republicans doubt the same can happen at the federal level.

After a teenage gunman killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers inside a Texas elementary school Tuesday, Democrats on Capitol Hill quickly lamented Republican lawmakers’ years of intransigence on gun control.

“No matter the cause of violence and no matter the cost on the families,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday, “nothing seems to move them.”

But that broadside wasn’t entirely accurate: Not long ago, GOP lawmakers bucked ferocious pressure from the National Rifle Association to pass significant new gun restrictions after a deadly school shooting, which were then signed into law by a fiercely conservative Republican.

It just didn’t happen in Washington.

Three weeks after 17 people were gunned down in 2018 inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill that included provisions banning weapons sales to those younger than 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on most long-gun purchases, and creating a “red flag” law allowing authorities to confiscate weapons from people deemed to constitute a public threat.

The NRA’s powerful leader in the state, Marion P. Hammer, condemned Republicans backing the bill as “betrayers.” But 75 out of 99 GOP lawmakers voted for it anyway, and Scott — who was preparing to seek a U.S. Senate seat — signed it, calling the bill full of “common-sense solutions.” Other provisions of the bill included $400 million for mental health and school security programs, and an initiative, fiercely opposed by Democrats, that would allow teachers and school staff to be trained as armed “guardians.”

  • Washington Post, Sen. Murphy allows for some optimism in gun legislation talks with GOP, May 30, 2022.

  Recent Shooting Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, For NATO, Turkey Is a Disruptive Ally, Michael Crowley and Steven Erlanger, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s block on NATO membership for Sweden and Finland is likely to be managed, but the rest of the alliance is exasperated.

When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey threatened this month to block NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, Western officials were exasperated — but not shocked.

nato logo flags nameWithin an alliance that operates by consensus, the Turkish strongman has come to be seen as something of a stickup artist. In 2009, he blocked the appointment of a new NATO chief from Denmark, complaining that the country was too tolerant of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and too sympathetic to “Kurdish terrorists” based in Turkey. It took hours of cajoling by Western leaders, and a face-to-face promise from President Barack Obama that NATO would appoint a Turk to a leadership position, to satisfy Mr. Erdogan.

After a rupture in relations between Turkey and Israel the next year, Mr. Erdogan prevented the alliance from working with the Jewish state for six years. A few years later, Mr. Erdogan delayed for months a NATO plan to fortify Eastern European countries against Russia, again citing Kurdish militants and demanding that the alliance declare ones operating in Syria to be terrorists. In 2020, Mr. Erdogan sent a gas-exploration ship backed by fighter jets close to Greek waters, causing France to send ships in support of Greece, also a NATO member.

Now the Turkish leader is back in the role of obstructionist, and is once again invoking the Kurds, as he charges that Sweden and Finland sympathize with the Kurdish militants he has made his main enemy.

“These countries have almost become guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” he said this month. “It is not possible for us to be in favor.”

Mr. Erdogan’s stance is a reminder of a long-festering problem for NATO, which currently has 30 members. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have given the alliance a new sense of mission, but NATO must still contend with an authoritarian leader willing to use his leverage to gain political points at home by blocking consensus — at least for a time.

It is a situation that plays to the advantage of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has grown friendlier with Mr. Erdogan in recent years. For the Russian leader, the rejection of Swedish and Finnish admission into NATO would be a significant victory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Heavy fighting in Severodonetsk as Moscow makes east ‘absolute priority,’ Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Julian Duplain, Victoria Bisset, Annabelle Chapman and Meryl Kornfield, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). Safety campaign provides advice for displaced Ukrainians amid trafficking fears; Germany agrees to extra 100 billion euros in military spending.

ukraine flagHeavy fighting continues between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the streets of Severodonetsk, one of the last Ukrainian-held cities in the country’s eastern Luhansk region. Russian troops now control a strip of about 100 meters, head of the district administration said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 90 percent of the city’s buildings and all of its “critical infrastructure” have been destroyed as officials say Moscow is using air support for its assault.

Moscow has focused its recent efforts on eastern Ukraine, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the Donetsk and Luhansk regions Moscow’s “absolute priority.” At the same time, Ukraine’s military announced offensive operations in the southeast, outside of Kherson, which they said put Russian forces on the defensive.

In Monday morning talks, E.U. ambassadors did not reach a deal to phase out imports of oil from Russia, amid ongoing opposition from Hungary, keeping the issue on the E.U.’s agenda — and Russian oil flowing.

Here’s what else to know

  • President Biden told reporters on Monday morning that the United States would not “send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”
  • Zelensky is set to address a special European Council summit scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
  • Ukrainian forces in the east of Ukraine have spoken of their suffering on the front line as their country’s leaders urge the United States to provide more weapons.

In other developments:

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany sought to revive diplomatic discussions during an 80-minute phone call on Saturday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
  • Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that sophisticated Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles had arrived. He said the Harpoons came courtesy of Denmark and would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odesa.
  • The importance of long-range weapons systems is potentially decisive in the war.
  • Ukraine is holding on to its control of Sievierodonetsk, the last city it holds in the eastern Luhansk province, but Mr. Zelensky described the situation there as “indescribably difficult.”
  • Russia systematically uses thermobaric weapons in Ukraine.
  • Serbia reaches a new deal with Russia to supply natural gas for three years (Marc Santora). President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia said on Sunday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had agreed to a new deal to supply Serbians with natural gas for three years, according to state media, deepening the bond between Moscow and its strongest ally in Europe.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

peter navarro white house imagePolitico, Trump advisor Navarro claims to have received grand jury subpoena, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). He claims they have asked for records of “any communications” with the former president.

Peter Navarro, a former White House aide to Donald Trump, says he’s been served a grand jury subpoena by federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6 insurrection — and claims they have asked for records of “any communications” with the former president.

politico CustomIn a draft lawsuit that Navarro began circulating Monday, the former Trump trade adviser said “two FBI special agents banged loudly on my door in the early morning hours” on May 26 and served him a subpoena signed by Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.

Navarro declined to provide a copy of the subpoena and claimed in the draft lawsuit that it was connected to his refusal to testify to the Jan. 6 select committee, which issued a congressional subpoena for his testimony in February. The House in April recommended that the Justice Department charge Navarro with contempt of Congress. But it would be unusual if a grand jury subpoena were related to his potential contempt case, since he would likely be the target of such a probe and less likely to be asked for testimony.

Another select committee witness, Steve Bannon, was charged with contempt last year for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena. He did not receive a grand jury subpoena before his charges were filed.

Navarro, who is not represented by a lawyer, said he intends to file his proposed lawsuit, an 88-page complaint that lists Graves, the select committee and Speaker Nancy Pelosi among the defendants, on Tuesday morning.

According to Navarro, the grand jury subpoena directs him to appear for June 2 testimony and to produce any documents that would shed light on his refusal to testify to congressional investigators in February. The demand for documents, he says, include records of any contacts he had with Trump or the former president’s attorneys.

A grand jury subpoena for Navarro would be the most aggressive known step that prosecutors have taken into Trump’s West Wing related to Jan. 6. There have long been indications, though, that federal prosecutors have been laying the groundwork for a broader probe into Trump’s inner circle to examine their role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election — and stoking the violence that ensued Jan. 6, 2021.

 

supreme court building

cnn logoCNN, Exclusive: Supreme Court leak investigation heats up as clerks are asked for phone records in unprecedented move, Joan Biskupic, May 31, 2022.  Supreme Court officials are escalating their search for the source of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking steps to require law clerks to provide cell phone records and sign affidavits, three sources with knowledge of the efforts have told CNN.

Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel.

The court's moves are unprecedented and the most striking development to date in the investigation into who might have provided Politico with the draft opinion it published on May 2. The probe has intensified the already high tensions at the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority is poised to roll back a half-century of abortion rights and privacy protections.

john roberts oChief Justice John Roberts, right, met with law clerks as a group after the breach, CNN has learned, but it is not known whether any systematic individual interviews have occurred.

Lawyers outside the court who have become aware of the new inquiries related to cell phone details warn of potential intrusiveness on clerks' personal activities, irrespective of any disclosure to the news media, and say they may feel the need to obtain independent counsel.

"That's what similarly situated individuals would do in virtually any other government investigation," said one appellate lawyer with experience in investigations and knowledge of the new demands on law clerks. "It would be hypocritical for the Supreme Court to prevent its own employees from taking advantage of that fundamental legal protection."

Sources familiar with efforts underway say the exact language of the affidavits or the intended scope of that cell phone search -- content or time period covered -- is not yet clear.

The Supreme Court did not respond to a CNN request on Monday for comment related to the phone searches and affidavits.

The young lawyers selected to be law clerks each year are regarded as the elite of the elite. (Each justice typically hires four.) They are overwhelmingly graduates of Ivy League law schools and have had prior clerkships with prominent US appellate court judges.

Their one-year service becomes a golden ticket to prestigious law firms, top government jobs or professorships. Six of the current nine Supreme Court justices are former clerks.

The escalating scrutiny of law clerks reflects Roberts' concerns about the breach in confidentiality and possibly further leaks. It also suggests the court has been so far unsuccessful in determining Politico's source.

gail curleyRoberts ordered the investigation on May 3, designating the court's marshal, Gail Curley, to lead the probe.

Curley, left, a lawyer and former Army colonel, oversees the police officers at the building. She is best known to the public as the person who chants, "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" at the beginning of the justices' oral argument sessions. The marshal's office would not normally examine the details of cell phone data or engage in a broad-scale investigation of personnel.

The investigation comes at the busiest time in the court's annual term, when relations among the justices are already taut. Assisted by their law clerks, the justices are pressing toward late June deadlines, trying to resolve differences in the toughest cases, all with new pressures and public scrutiny.

Because of protests and security concerns related to the Mississippi abortion case, the court building is surrounded by an 8-foot non-scalable fence and concrete barriers.

The justices are also resolving a New York dispute that could, based on their remarks during oral arguments in November, expand Second Amendment protection for gun owners. Additionally, the court could further lower the wall of separation between church and state by permitting certain prayer at public schools and requiring public vouchers for religious institutions.

The draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was written by Justice Samuel Alito and appeared to have a five-justice majority to completely reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That landmark ruling made abortion legal nationwide and buttressed other privacy interests not expressly stated in the Constitution. Some law professors have warned that if Roe is reversed, the Supreme Court's 2015 decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage could be in jeopardy.

Publication of the Alito draft opinion has already prompted national protests and dueling state legislative efforts -- to further eliminate all options for a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy or, alternatively, to try to safeguard women's access to abortion where possible.

But it is difficult for anyone outside the building to know whether the Alito draft still commands a majority on a court tightly divided on abortion rights and split over how quickly to reverse precedent.

Cell phones, of course, hold an enormous amount of information, related to personal interactions, involving all manner of content, texts and images, as well as apps used. It is uncertain whether details linked only to calls would be sought or whether a broader retrieval would occur.

There are protocols for handling drafts of court opinions, which circulate electronically on a closed system, separate from the computer system the justices and court employees use to communicate with people outside the court. Yet it is possible for printed copies to leave the building under even innocent circumstances, as work is taken home.

Court officials are secretive even in normal times. No progress reports related to the leak investigation have been made public, and it is not clear whether any report from the probe will ever be released.

Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel.

The court's moves are unprecedented and the most striking development to date in the investigation into who might have provided Politico with the draft opinion it published on May 2. The probe has intensified the already high tensions at the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority is poised to roll back a half-century of abortion rights and privacy protections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court justice Alito delays counting of undated ballots in Pa., Robert Barnes and Colby Itkowitz, May 31, 2022. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Tuesday put a hold on counting some challenged ballots in Pennsylvania while the Supreme Court continues to review a lower court’s decision that they be tallied.

The administrative stay Alito issued involves a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. It said that mail-in ballots that were received on time but lacked a required date on the outer envelope should be counted. Alito is the justice who receives emergency applications from the 3rd Circuit.

The panel’s decision involved a local judge’s race in Lehigh County. But it is significant because of the too-close-to-call primary for the Republican Senate nomination involving Mehmet Oz and David McCormick. McCormick, who trails Oz by fewer than 1,000 votes, has filed a lawsuit in state court to require that such “undated ballots” be counted.

The state’s requirement is that mail-ballot voters “fill out, date and sign” a form declaration on the outer envelope used to return ballots. But the federal judges said not counting the votes of those who did not provide a date violated federal civil rights law because the requirement was immaterial to the voters’ qualifications. There are no indications of fraud, the ballots were received by the state’s deadline and election officials noted they would have counted ballots with the wrong date but not those with no dates at all, the judges said.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Irreplaceable’ $2 million gold tabernacle stolen from Brooklyn church, Bryan Pietsch, May 31, 2022. A tabernacle worth $2 million was stolen from a Catholic church in Brooklyn, New York City police said Monday, in what church officials described as a “brazen crime of disrespect and hate.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong, Kate Shaw and John Bash, May 31, 2022. In the summer of 2008, the Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to gun ownership. We were law clerks to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, and Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the lead dissent.

Justices Scalia and Stevens clashed over the meaning of the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion held that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep a usable handgun at home, which meant the District of Columbia law prohibiting such possession was unconstitutional. Justice Stevens argued that the protections of the Second Amendment extended only to firearm ownership in conjunction with service in a “well-regulated militia,” in the words of the Second Amendment.

We each assisted a boss we revered in drafting his opinion, and we’re able to acknowledge that work without breaching any confidences.

We continue to hold very different views about both gun regulation and how the Constitution should be interpreted.

But despite our fundamental disagreements, we are both concerned that Heller has been misused in important policy debates about our nation’s gun laws. In the 14 years since the Heller decision, Congress has not enacted significant new laws regulating firearms, despite progressives’ calls for such measures in the wake of mass shootings. Many cite Heller as the reason. But they are wrong.

Heller does not totally disable government from passing laws that seek to prevent the kind of atrocities we saw in Uvalde, Texas. And we believe that politicians on both sides of the aisle have (intentionally or not) misconstrued Heller. Some progressives, for example, have blamed the Second Amendment, Heller or the Supreme Court for atrocities like Uvalde. And some conservatives have justified contested policy positions merely by pointing to Heller, as if the opinion resolved the issues.

Neither is fair. Rather, we think it’s clear that every member of the court on which we clerked joined an opinion — either majority or dissent — that agreed that the Constitution leaves elected officials an array of policy options when it comes to gun regulation.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Investigates Basquiat Paintings Shown at Orlando Museum of Art, Brett Sokol, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). The authenticity of 25 paintings, largely unseen before the exhibition’s February opening, is being investigated, according to a federal subpoena.

The ongoing cultural fascination with the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat shows little signs of dimming, whether it’s in the form of brisk sales for $29.99 Basquiat-themed T-shirts at The Gap, large crowds for Basquiat’s latest art exhibitions, or an actual canvas by the painter auctioned last week for $85 million.

To the ranks of those focused intently on all things Basquiat, you can now add the F.B.I.

The F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team is investigating the authenticity of 25 paintings that the Orlando Museum of Art says were created by Basquiat and are on exhibit there, according to a federal subpoena and several people with knowledge about the situation.

The paintings in the “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition were said by the museum and their owners to have been recovered from a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The works were largely unseen before the show’s February opening. An article in The New York Times raised questions about their authenticity, reporting that a designer who had previously worked for Federal Express had identified the FedEx typeface on a piece of cardboard Basquiat was said to have painted on as one that was not designed until 1994 — six years after the artist’s death.

The paintings’ owners and the museum’s director and chief executive, Aaron De Groft, say the paintings are genuine Basquiats, citing statements from art world experts commissioned by the owners. And the chairwoman of the museum’s board, Cynthia Brumback, has publicly supported De Groft. The paintings are set to leave the museum on June 30 for public exhibitions in Italy.

The Hill, Garland urges public service in Harvard address: ‘Democracy is under threat,’ Olafimihan Oshin, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Attorney General Merrick Garland urged Harvard University’s graduating class to go into public service to combat the ongoing turmoil in the U.S., saying that “democracy is under threat.”

Delivering his commencement address to the university’s graduating class of 2020 and 2021 on Sunday, Garland spoke about how he saw citizens offering to volunteer in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

“Earlier in my career, I spent weeks in Oklahoma City investigating the bombing of a federal building,” Garland said. “I saw – and I felt – how consequential an outpouring of volunteer services could be. Oklahomans lined up to offer care and comfort to those who were hurting – survivors and first responders, neighbors and strangers alike.”

“But it should not take a tragedy to prompt us to look for ways, that day in and day out, we can help those who need our help,” Garland added.

“There is one particular reason that makes my call to public service especially urgent for your generation. It is an urgency that should move each of you, regardless of the career you choose,” Garland said. “It is the urgent need to defend democracy.”

 Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

More On Special Counsel's Court Defeat

Emptywheel, Analysis: Jury aquits Michael Sussmann; Sussman lawyer calls prosecution "Extraordinary prosecutorial overreach," emptywheel marcy wheeler(Dr.  Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right, independent national security analyst), May 31, 2022. The Michael Sussmann jury just announced its verdict. Michael Sussmann was acquitted of lying to the FBI.

The jury deliberated for six hours. This morning, they asked for exhibits that include the taxi receipts showing that Sussmann did not bill the Hillary campaign for the meeting with the FBI. They also asked whether they all had to agree on the elements of the offense, suggesting some people believed Durham had not proven some aspects (such that Sussmann had lied or that he did so intentionally) whereas others believed Durham had not proven other parts (such as that it was material — remember that FBI largely proceeded as if this were a tip from the Hillary campaign).

Durham released a statement:

While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service. I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.

Sussmann read a statement:

I have a few thoughts to share, now that trial has ended.

First, I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today.

I am grateful to the members of the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.

As you can imagine, this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now, we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the work that I love.

Finally, I want to thank my legal team at Latham & Watkins—Sean Berkowitz, Michael Bosworth, Natalie Rao, & Catherine Yao. They are the finest lawyers, and they worked tirelessly on my case.

Thank you.

The statement from his attorney, Sean Berkowitz, is more interesting.

We have always known that Michael Sussmann is innocent and we are grateful that the members of the jury have now come to the same conclusion.

But Michael Sussmann should never have been charged in the first place. This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach. And we believe that today’s verdict sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.

Media Matters via Twitter, Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty, Lis Power, May 31, 2022. 

  • Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty: An acquittal in the Sussman trial "could raise doubts about the legal merits of Durham's entire investigation."
  • Fox this hour after Sussman was found not guilty: THE JURY WAS RIGGED, ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What if, bear with me, John Durham doesn't have the goods? Philip Bump, May 31, 2022. Since Donald Trump first sought to undermine the investigation into whether any members of his 2016 campaign had knowledge of or worked with Russia’s effort to aid his candidacy, the goal posts have been in motion.

Over and over, he and his allies presented some alternate explanation for the investigation that shifted all of the questions about legality and ethics onto his real and perceived opponents.

Nowhere was more institutional energy invested than in the formal investigation into the Russia investigation authorized by Barr more than three years ago. U.S. Attorney John Durham, later elevated to special counsel, was given a mandate to figure out where the Russia investigation came from and, as needed, to upend the conventional wisdom about its origins.

And no one would argue that he’s shirked from that task, as he has regularly provided conservative media with new places to locate their shuffling goal posts.

For months, Durham’s seemingly been building toward an argument that Clinton’s campaign bears central responsibility for the emergence of the Russia investigation. After indicting an attorney who worked for a firm hired by Clinton on charges that he lied to the FBI, Durham released little tidbits about what he and his team had learned, tidbits that could be interpreted to suggest that he was building a case not against the Russia probe but instead against Clinton.

Durham’s probe has become everything that Trump and his allies accused special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation of being: a fishing expedition that’s gone on for an extended period of time without actually surfacing anything that significantly aids the central case.

Emptywheel, How Judge Cooper rewrote the Michael Sussmann indictment, emptywheel (Dr.  Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right, independent national security analyst), May 30, 2022. I’ve been tracking a marcy wheelerdispute about the jury instructions in the Michael Sussmann trial, but only got time to check the outcome last night. At issue was whether some of the extraneous language from the indictment would be included in the description of the charge.

Sussmann had wanted the instructions to include that language claiming Sussmann was lying to hide two clients.

christopher cooperWhen Judge Cooper (left) instructed the jury, however, he rewrote the indictment approved by the grand jury to reflect that maybe Sussmann was just hiding one client.

Now, perhaps there was some discussion I missed finding that the government only had to prove Sussmann was hiding one client — the disjunctive proof business, above. And perhaps it will not matter — I think Sussmann’s team raised plenty of issues with Jim Baker’s credibility such that the jury will find the whole prosecution preposterous, but I also think Durham’s team may have thrown enough cow manure at the jury to stifle rational thought.

But this slight change — unilaterally replacing “and” with “or” — seems to intervene to help Durham recover from one of the most abusive aspects of the prosecution, his failure to take basic investigative steps before charging Sussmann.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logogeorgia mapWashington Post, Cybersecurity Analysis: There’s no evidence of Georgia election hacks but still plenty to worry about, Analysis by Joseph Marks and research by Aaron Schaffer, May 31, 2022. Georgia’s voting machines recorded votes properly – but they have hacking vulnerabilities that went undiscovered for years.

Georgia’s voting machines recorded votes properly – but they have hacking vulnerabilities that went undiscovered for years.

The findings are from a recent review of the voting machines and represent a mixed bag for people concerned about foreign and domestic interference in U.S. elections.
Former Trump aide Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6

First, the good news: There’s no evidence any of the vulnerabilities have been used to alter votes in any elections, as my colleagues Ellen Nakashima and Amy Gardner report. Most of the vulnerabilities are also quite difficult to exploit, requiring hands-on access to the voting machines. And they’re likely to be caught by standard security protocols in election offices.

But: The vulnerabilities in the Dominion Voting Systems-brand machines remained undetected for years. They might not have been discovered now if not for a long-running lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s machines during which University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman was given a chance to examine the machines on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case.

Such independent reviews are still relatively rare — and election security advocates warn vulnerabilities in other voting systems could still be waiting out there undiscovered.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Insisted the 2020 Election Was Tainted. Their 2022 Primary Wins? Not So Much, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, May 31, 2022.  Republicans are accepting their primary victories with little concern about the voter fraud they once falsely claimed caused Donald Trump’s loss.

Republicans’ easy acceptance of a voting system they once slammed as broken exposes a fundamental contradiction in their complaints about the 2020 election. Claims about fraud and stolen elections are often situational — used in some races (against Democrats) but not others (against other Republicans), and to challenge some outcomes (losing) but not others (winning).

washington post logoWashington Post, James Biden — presidential brother, family helper, political wild card, Matt Viser, May 31, 2022. President Biden’s brother James is known in the family as the one who’s always ready to help. But he also has a history of business dealings that resulted in recriminations and lawsuits.

James Biden has in many ways always been the protector in the Biden family, the one who made sure the machinery ran while his brother soared; President Biden as recently as late last year referred to him as “my brother Jimmy, who fixes everything.” He has been there for the bad times, comforting family members in distress, visiting the bedside of loved ones, getting them into rehab when needed. He was by his brother’s side at his first wedding, was at the hospital when Beau died, found a neurosurgeon when Joe had a brain aneurysm.
(Obtained by The Washington Post)

He even helped paint Hunter’s law school apartment. When Joe Biden became president, his brother was tasked with redecorating the Oval Office.

Yet from the start of Joe Biden’s political career, James, who is seven years younger, has also walked up to ethical lines his brother has avoided, leaving a complicated trail of business dealings and angry lawsuits.

In a rare phone interview, James Biden said he tries to keep a low profile, and he used more than a few expletives to describe unwelcome attention from Republicans and the media. “I’m the guy who assists in everything. When it comes to my family I try to be as supportive as I can,” he said. “But this notion of ‘the fixer,’ or any reference that has a negative connotation, is offensive.”

He added, “The notion I am some underworld figure and I am a fixer or the cleaner or I’m this or that — I’m a very concerned family member who tries to protect my family in every way I can, in what is a very ethical way.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. policymakers misjudged inflation threat until it was too late, Mike Madden and Rachel Siegel, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). This timeline provides an overview of some of the key moments in the inflation story over the last year, and how it has bedeviled the leaders of the White House and Federal Reserve.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden goes for the safer play on canceling student loan debt, Aaron Blake, May 31, 2022. Canceling $10,000 and excluding the highest earners, as Biden's plan does, appears to align with what a substantial majority of Americans want. It won't satisfy everyone, though, and the political consequences are yet to be determined.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosAs The Post’s Tyler Pager, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein report, the White House is planning to cancel $10,000 in debt per borrower, while limiting it to individuals who make less than $150,000 per year or couples who make less than $300,000. The proposal hasn’t been formally announced and apparently will have to wait in the aftermath of the tragedy in Uvalde, Tex. It could also change, as the White House emphasized that no final decisions have been made. But the framework seems to be in place.

That framework is not going to satisfy many liberals who pushed for a much bolder approach with a much higher price tag. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) were among those pushing for forgiving $50,000 or even all student loans. Nor will this proposal be met with support from Republicans, who have criticized the idea as a handout to a group of Americans already better off than most, since those with college loan debt went to college and thus generally have higher incomes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time for Biden to attack the White-grievance industry, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 30, 2022. On Saturday — the jennifer rubin new headshotday before he departed for Uvalde, Tex. — President Biden told University of Delaware graduates: “In the face of such destructive forces, we have to stand stronger. We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.” He also warned of the “oldest and darkest forces in America” preaching hate and “preying on hopelessness and despair.”

Biden is renowned for his expressions of empathy. But such language feels increasingly inadequate and, frankly, counterproductive in the face of nonstop political outrage.

Now is the time for precise language. “Forces” are not the problem; one political movement encased within the Republican Party is. “Ultra-MAGA” ideas are not the problem; Republicans spouting anti-American ideas that threaten functional democracy are.

It’s not the plague of “polarization” or “distrust,” some sort of floating miasma, that has darkened our society. Bluntly put, we are in deep trouble because a major party rationalizes both intense selfishness — the refusal to undertake even minor inconveniences such as mask-wearing or gun background checks for others’ protection — and deprivation of others’ rights (to vote, to make intimate decisions about reproduction, to be treated with respect).

washington post logoWashington Post, After losses in Georgia, Trump sets sights on ousting Liz Cheney in Wyo., David Weigel and Josh Dawsey, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Trump has rallied behind a candidate he is wagering can topple his most outspoken Republican critic in Congress.

liz cheney oSince her father’s first victory 44 years ago, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, right, and her family have never lost an election in Wyoming. When George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney as his running mate, the Republican ticket won by about 40 points, twice.

Former president Donald Trump is determined to end that streak this summer, rallying aggressively behind primary challenger Harriet Hageman, who he is wagering can topple his most outspoken Republican critic in Congress.

He hit the trail over the weekend in a very different Wyoming from years past, one where thousands cheered him as he railed against Cheney and looped together what he called the “failed foreign policy of the Clintons, Bushes, the Obamas and the Bidens.”

Attendees laughed when a photo mash-up of the congresswoman’s body and former president George W. Bush’s face appeared on the Ford Wyoming Center’s highest screen. “I think she looks good,” Trump joked. “Liz Cheney is about America last.”

Trump recalibrates his Republican standing after primary setbacks

The Aug. 16 primary in Wyoming is shaping up as the next big test of Trump’s effort to unseat Republican elected officials who have been critical of him and who fought his falsehood-ridden attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Orlando Sentinel, Chair's arrest on 'ghost' candidate probe shines harsh spotlight on Seminole County, Annie Martin, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). The chair of the Seminole County Republican Party was arrested in connection to an election fraud scheme involving fake candidates,

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Hungary is still holding up E.U. push to phase out Russian oil, Emily Rauhala, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). The issue now threatens to overshadow a two-day European Council summit on the war in Ukraine that starts Monday.

hungary flagThe European Union is not done talking about Russian oil. Nor is it done buying it.

In Monday morning talks, E.U. ambassadors once again failed to reach a deal to phase out imports of oil from Russia because of the ongoing opposition from Hungary, keeping the issue on the E.U.’s agenda — and Russian oil flowing to Europe — for at least another day.

viktor orbánThe issue now threatens to overshadow a two-day European Council summit on the war in Ukraine that starts Monday afternoon in Brussels, where E.U. leaders will discuss a watered down plan that would ban seaborne deliveries but exempt pipeline oil.

A senior E.U. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to brief the press, said the European Council hopes to reach a political agreement on the revised proposal Monday. It is not yet clear if all 27 leaders will sign on. Hungary's leader, Viktor Oban, right, has touted the profits his country is making by trafficking in Russian energy.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Colombia, two anti-establishment candidates head to a runoff, Samantha Schmidt, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). Colombians on Sunday gave a lead to a leftist presidential candidate for the first time in the country’s history, a vote that paved the way for an unusual runoff race between two populist, anti-establishment candidates promising radical change in the third-largest nation in Latin America.

Gustavo Petro, a 62-year-old senator and former leftist guerrilla, rode a wave of support from young and poor voters frustrated with high levels of unemployment, inflation and violence in one of the most unequal societies in the region. With the preliminary count nearly complete, Petro had won about 40 percent of the first-round vote on Sunday, falling far short of the majority he needed to become president outright.

Instead, he will face off in a second round on June 19 with an outsider candidate who catapulted in the polls at the last minute: Rodolfo Hernández, a brash, 77-year-old engineer and wealthy businessman who pledges to root out corruption and has drawn comparisons to former U.S. president Donald Trump. Hernández, a former mayor of the midsize city of Bucaramanga, won about 28 percent of the votes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Signs Trade Deal With U.A.E., Patrick Kingsley, May 31, 2022. Government ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free-trade agreement on Tuesday that, once ratified, would be the widest-ranging deal of its kind between Israel and an Arab country and the latest example of deepening ties between the Jewish state and some Arab governments.

The text of the deal has yet to be published and is still subject to review by the Israeli Parliament and formal ratification by the Israeli government, a process that will take at least two weeks. But officials said that once confirmed, the agreement would loosen restrictions on almost all trade between the two countries and could increase its annual value 10-fold within five years.

The speed at which the deal took shape — it was sealed less than two years since the establishment of formal ties between Israel and the Emirates — highlights the readiness with which Israel is now being accepted by some Arab leaders after years of diplomatic isolation.

For decades, Israel was ostracized by all but two Arab countries, with the others mostly avoiding formal diplomatic relations with it because of the lack of resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada vows to ‘freeze’ handgun sales, buy back assault-style weapons, Amanda Coletta, May 31, 2022. Canada on Monday introduced new gun-control legislation that, if passed, would implement a “national freeze” on buying, importing, transferring and selling handguns, effectively capping the number of such weapons already in the country.

canadian flagThe bill, which officials here cast as “the most significant action on gun violence in a generation,” also includes “red flag” laws that would allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and stiffer penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking.

“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible and follow all necessary laws,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We are, however, facing a level of gun violence in our communities that is unacceptable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sexual misconduct report on Canadian military slams ‘deficient’ culture, Amanda Coletta, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). Sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian military should be exclusively investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities, a blistering report from a former Supreme Court justice concluded Monday.

canadian flagThe government-commissioned report from Louise Arbour, who also served as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, came during a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against top military leaders that have rocked the armed forces and eroded public trust.

“The exposure of sexual misconduct in the [Canadian Armed Forces] has shed light on a deeply deficient culture fostered by a rigid and outdated structure that did little to modernize it,” Arbour wrote in the report.

A danger of the military’s operating model, she wrote, is a “high likelihood that some of its members are more at risk of harm, on a day-to-day basis, from their comrades than from the enemy.” She said the crisis “has caused as much damage as defeat in combat would have to demoralize the troops and shock Canadians.”

Among the report’s 48 recommendations were calls for sexual harassment complaints to be turned over to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and for officials to explore whether there should be an alternative to military colleges, which Arbour wrote “appear as institutions from a different era.”

washington post logoWashington Post, All 22 passengers feared dead in Nepali plane crash in the Himalayas, Shira Lal Bhusal, Rachel Pannett and Gerry Shih, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). Search-and-rescue officials in Nepal have recovered most of the bodies at the site of a plane crash in the Himalayan Mountains on Monday, one day after the twin-propeller plane carrying 22 people went missing shortly after takeoff.

 Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Shanghai Is Poised to Ease Restrictions as Infections Fall, Chris Buckley, May 31, 2022. After a punishing and lengthy lockdown, China’s biggest city is poised to return to something closer to normal starting Wednesday. Follow updates.

Two months after Shanghai began to fall under a Covid-19 lockdown that froze life there and rippled across the national economy, China’s biggest city is poised to return to something closer to normal starting Wednesday.

Shanghai has released plans in recent days to reopen shops and malls, revive buses and ferries, and open parks and other public venues to 25 million residents who have spent much of the past eight weeks confined to their homes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid was vanishing last Memorial Day. Cases are five times higher now, Fenit Nirappil, Craig Pittman and Maureen O'Hagan, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Covid-weary Americans enter summer with little effort to contain a still-raging pandemic.

For the third year, Americans are greeting the unofficial start of summer shadowed by the specter of the coronavirus amid rising covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.

The United States is recording more than 100,000 infections a day — at least five times higher than this point last year — as it confronts the most transmissible versions of the virus yet. Immunity built up as a result of the record winter outbreak appears to provide little protection against the latest variants, new research shows. And public health authorities are bracing for Memorial Day gatherings to fuel another bump in cases, potentially seeding a summer surge.

It’s a far cry from a year ago, with predictions of a “hot vax summer” uninhibited by covid concerns. Back then, coronavirus seemed to teeter on the brink of defeat as cases plummeted to their lowest levels since spring 2020 and vaccines became widely available for adults. Even the vaccinated and boosted now grudgingly accept the virus as a formidable foe that’s here to stay as governments abandon measures to contain it.

Americans emerged from isolation last Memorial Day: 'Like the end of Prohibition'

As the virus morphs and the scientific understanding of how it operates shifts with each variant, Americans are drawing their own lines for what they feel comfortable doing.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 31, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 532,220,313, Deaths: 6,312,143
U.S. Cases:     85,730,597, Deaths: 1,031,286
Indian Cases:  43,158,582, Deaths:    524,630
Brazil Cases:   30,977,66, Deaths:      666,568

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wants to rebuild the EPA. He doesn’t have the money to do it, Dino Grandoni, May 31, 2022. ‘Our budget situation is such that we’re at real risk of years-long delays,’ one official warns.

After years of neglect, President Biden promised to reinvigorate the EPA as part of his push to tackle climate change and ease the pollution burden placed on poor and minority communities. But the agency’s budgetary woes are preventing the nation’s top pollution regulator from doing its job, in ways large and small.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Policies Sent U.S. Tumbling in a Climate Ranking, Maggie Astor, May 31, 2022. A report found that only Denmark and Britain were on track for net-zero emissions by 2050, while U.S. efforts floundered under former President Trump. The Environmental Performance Index, published every two years by researchers at Yale and Columbia, found only Denmark and Britain on sustainable paths to net-zero emissions by 2050.

For four years under President Donald J. Trump, the United States all but stopped trying to combat climate change at the federal level. Mr. Trump is no longer in office, but his presidency left the country far behind in a race that was already difficult to win.

A new report from researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities shows that the United States’ environmental performance has tumbled in relation to other countries — a reflection of the fact that, while the United States squandered nearly half a decade, many of its peers moved deliberately.

But, underscoring the profound obstacles to cutting greenhouse gas emissions rapidly enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, even that movement was insufficient. The report’s sobering bottom line is that, while almost every country has pledged by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions (the point where their activities no longer add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere), almost none are on track to do it.

The report, called the Environmental Performance Index, or E.P.I., found that, based on their trajectories from 2010 through 2019, only Denmark and Britain were on a sustainable path to eliminate emissions by midcentury.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, First she documented the alt-right. Now she’s coming for crypto, Gerrit De Vynck, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Molly White, a veteran Wikipedia editor, is fast becoming the cryptocurrency world’s biggest critic.

In a strange, animated YouTube video, Cryptoland paints itself as the ultimate utopia, featuring luxurious villas, a casino and a private club, all located on a pristine island in Fiji. Built by and for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, it was looking for investors.

To Molly White, the project wasn’t just cringeworthy bluster, it was promotional material for yet another potential scam — one that was targeting the money of real people. Digging into Cryptoland’s organizing documents, she found a business plan full of contradictions and other red flags, like an address in the Seychelles islands, a tax haven which has hosted previous high-profile crypto scams.

White unpacked the project in a dashed-off Twitter thread, which went viral, kicking off a wave of criticism and ridicule and spawning copycat videos that boast millions of views. Now, Cryptoland’s website appears inactive, and supporters have abandoned it. Requests for comment to its founders were not answered.

washington post logoWashington Post, French journalist killed in strike on humanitarian convoy, officials say, Meryl Kornfield and Tara Bahrampour, May 31, 2022 (print ed.). A French photojournalist covering evacuation efforts in eastern Ukraine was killed during a Russian strike that hit the humanitarian truck he was in, officials say.

Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was carrying press credentials, was fatally wounded after shrapnel pierced the armored evacuation truck that was about to pick up refugees near Severodonetsk, a focal point of the ongoing battle, according to Ukrainian officials. The shrapnel struck his neck.

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia lawmakers to delay vote on NFL stadium for Commanders, signaling trouble for the plan, Laura Vozzella, May 31, 2022. The General Assembly will delay voting on legislation meant to lure the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia, a key senator said Tuesday, signaling trouble for a plan that began the year with broad bipartisan buy-in.

With legislators returning to the Capitol on Wednesday to vote on the state budget and other measures kicked into a special session early this year, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said a pair of stadium bills will not come to the floor as planned.

The delay will not be the last word on the stadium effort generally or even the current legislation, which Saslaw said will stay alive because the General Assembly will not take the usual vote to conclude the special session Wednesday. That move will extend the session for an unspecified period.

But the delay suggests that the proposed taxpayer-subsidized stadium has become a tougher sell in Richmond than in January, when a pair of bills emerged with powerful bipartisan support, and newly inaugurated Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) endorsed the idea in his first speech to the legislature.

While negotiators have worked since then to slash the size of the state’s contribution — from an initial estimate of $1 billion to less than $300 million — controversies have grown around team owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder has been accused of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties — allegations he denies.

The Commanders and Snyder have been embroiled in scandal for much of the past two years amid allegations of sexual misconduct and financial impropriety, which have prompted investigations by the NFL and Congress, as well as possibly the Federal Trade Commission. Last month, Attorneys General Karl A. Racine (D) of D.C. and Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia launched their own probes of the team.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 30

Top Headlines

 

uvalde victims

 

Commentaries

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy


Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


The Ransom: Investigating The Root of Haiti’s Misery

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Top Stories

 

uvalde victims

ny times logoNew York Times, States Rush Toward New Gun Restrictions as Congress Remains Gridlocked, Shawn Hubler and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Democratic leaders are demanding immediate action after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In Republican-controlled statehouses, the reaction is the opposite. The moves come amid waning hope for congressional consensus on gun violence and other American social issues.

Congress failed to impose gun restrictions after the school massacres in Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., and there’s little confidence that 21 deaths at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, will change matters now.

But states aren’t waiting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy urged lawmakers to advance firearms safety measures, including raising the age to 21 for purchases of long guns and exposing gun makers to civil lawsuits.

In New York — where an 18-year-old in Buffalo was charged two weeks ago with committing a racist mass shooting — Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would seek to ban people under 21 from purchasing AR-15-style rifles.

And in California — where a politically motivated mass shooting erupted at a luncheon of older churchgoers this month — legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom fast-tracked tougher controls on firearms.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 11 mass shootings so far during holiday weekend, Annabelle Timsit, May 30, 2022. And since the Uvalde shooting on Tuesday, there have been at least 14 other shootings that had four victims or more.

After a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers last week, many politicians, public figures and gun-control advocates said the U.S. government should ensure mass shootings could not happen again.

But mass shootings have already happened again — and again. At least 14 mass shootings have taken place across the United States since Tuesday, from California to Arizona to Tennessee.

This Memorial Day weekend alone — spanning Saturday, Sunday and the federal holiday on Monday — there have been at least 11 mass shootings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas’s romance with guns tested by Uvalde massacre, Holly Bailey and Joshua Lott, May 30, 2022. For years, even as mass shootings swept the country, Richard Small bristled at any talk of tighter gun restrictions, viewing it as nothing more than politically driven finger-pointing that would do little to stop the violence while infringing on his rights as a gun owner.

But then, the 68-year-old retired high school history teacher saw a photo of one of the young victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a pleasant little town that he’d visited frequently when he coached youth football.

texas map“He looked like my grandson. I mean, they could have been twins. They have the same face,” Small said, his voice shaky with emotion. “It just stirred something in me.”

On Saturday night, Small, a self-described “devout NRA Republican,” did what he acknowledges would have been unthinkable days earlier. He unlocked his gun cabinet and pulled out his AR-15, similar to the one used by the gunman in Uvalde. He drove to his local police department and turned it in.

“I’m a gun advocate. I believe in the Second Amendment. But this AR, after what I saw in Uvalde, I’m done with it,” Small said as he turned the rifle over to an officer with the Charlotte police department. “I’m sick over it.”

Guns have long been an inextricable part of Texas culture — tightly woven into small towns like Uvalde, a predominantly Latino community of about 16,000 about an hour north of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Here, children are raised to hunt and shoot from a young age, and many residents — including family members of the victims — say they own guns for their own protection. It is an affinity that cuts across the partisan lines that typically define the gun debate in other parts of the country.

 

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to victims of the Uvalde school massacre in Texas on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Mandel Ngan of AFP via Getty Images).

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to victims of the Uvalde school massacre in Texas on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Mandel Ngan of AFP via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Do something!’ ‘We will,’ Biden told crowd in Uvalde, Peter Jamison, Amy B Wang, Teo Armus and Seung Min Kim, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects here Sunday amid a sea of flowers, coming face to face with oversize photos of the 19 children and two teachers killed during the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

The first couple stood in silence, reading the names of the victims and touching each portrait, ringed with white roses. Nearby, white crosses staked into the ground outside the school were painted with the names of each of the victims.

Jill Biden placed her hand gently on some of the photos, as if to pat the children on their shoulders. The president wiped away a tear.

They had traveled to Uvalde on Sunday to follow a familiar ritual after an American massacre: praying, trying to comfort victims’ families and survivors, and meeting with first responders.

Less than a week ago, distraught parents had paced the same grounds of Robb Elementary School as the shooting was unfolding. It became public later that the parents shouted and pleaded with law enforcement officers to let them into the school — to do something to save their children.

In the days since, the president had forcefully condemned the “carnage” of American gun violence, called for stricter gun laws and lamented the loss of life.

On Sunday, though, Biden mourned mostly in silence, attuned to the heavy grief that had settled over the school site and a community in pain.

At one point, Biden embraced Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary, in front of the brick sign welcoming visitors to campus Greg Abbott Customin English and Spanish. Others who joined the Bidens to pay respects at the memorial included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), right, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.) and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin. Some in the crowd booed when they saw the governor and chanted, “Vote him out!”

The White House invited Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and notified Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) of the president’s visit, a spokesman said, but neither man was with Biden on Sunday.

After the school visit, the first couple attended Mass at Sacred Heart, Uvalde’s only Catholic church, where they were greeted by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.

As the Bidens entered the sanctuary and made their way to the front pew, Jill Biden lightly touched the hands of several people seated along the aisle. About 600 people filled the pews. A violinist and a pianist played “Ave Maria” and other inspirational songs before the service started.

“Our hearts are broken,” García-Siller said as the service commenced. He invited children to come to the front of the church and sit on the floor. They were the ones, he told them directly, who would help the community heal.

As the Bidens left the church, another crowd of spectators gathered to watch their departure.

“Do something!” someone in the crowd yelled. Biden had already reached the presidential limousine. He stood at the open door and replied: “We will.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: After Months of Debate, European Leaders Agree to Ban Most Russian Oil Imports, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Richard Pérez-Peña, May 30, 2022. A draft of the agreement allows pipeline imports, in a nod to Hungary’s complaints. Even still, it would be the toughest action yet over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

european union logo rectangleThe European Union on Monday agreed to ban most imports of Russian oil, the harshest economic penalty yet imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and potentially the biggest sacrifice by Europe, itself.

The deal is the latest and most far-reaching demonstration that over more than three months of war, in reaction to mounting Russian aggression and atrocities, European leaders have grown willing to take steps they considered too extreme when the ukraine flaginvasion began. They have already barred imports of Russian natural gas, cut off Russian banks from global financial networks, frozen Russian assets and sent advanced weaponry to Ukraine.

In related news, Ukraine’s victory at the Eurovision Song Contest brought national pride, joy and artistic prestige to the country amid the devastation of war. Now, it will also help supply drones to the Ukrainian army.

Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian band that won Eurovision after sweeping the phone-in popular vote, put its trophy and the pink bucket hat worn by its lead singer during the contest up for auction, and the items netted more than $1.2 million, the band’s spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, For NATO, Turkey Is a Disruptive Ally, Michael Crowley and Steven Erlanger, May 30, 2022. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s block on NATO membership for Sweden and Finland is likely to be managed, but the rest of the alliance is exasperated.

When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey threatened this month to block NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, Western officials were exasperated — but not shocked.

nato logo flags nameWithin an alliance that operates by consensus, the Turkish strongman has come to be seen as something of a stickup artist. In 2009, he blocked the appointment of a new NATO chief from Denmark, complaining that the country was too tolerant of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and too sympathetic to “Kurdish terrorists” based in Turkey. It took hours of cajoling by Western leaders, and a face-to-face promise from President Barack Obama that NATO would appoint a Turk to a leadership position, to satisfy Mr. Erdogan.

After a rupture in relations between Turkey and Israel the next year, Mr. Erdogan prevented the alliance from working with the Jewish state for six years. A few years later, Mr. Erdogan delayed for months a NATO plan to fortify Eastern European countries against Russia, again citing Kurdish militants and demanding that the alliance declare ones operating in Syria to be terrorists. In 2020, Mr. Erdogan sent a gas-exploration ship backed by fighter jets close to Greek waters, causing France to send ships in support of Greece, also a NATO member.

Now the Turkish leader is back in the role of obstructionist, and is once again invoking the Kurds, as he charges that Sweden and Finland sympathize with the Kurdish militants he has made his main enemy.

“These countries have almost become guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” he said this month. “It is not possible for us to be in favor.”

Mr. Erdogan’s stance is a reminder of a long-festering problem for NATO, which currently has 30 members. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have given the alliance a new sense of mission, but NATO must still contend with an authoritarian leader willing to use his leverage to gain political points at home by blocking consensus — at least for a time.

It is a situation that plays to the advantage of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has grown friendlier with Mr. Erdogan in recent years. For the Russian leader, the rejection of Swedish and Finnish admission into NATO would be a significant victory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Heavy fighting in Severodonetsk as Moscow makes east ‘absolute priority,’ Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Julian Duplain, Victoria Bisset, Annabelle Chapman and Meryl Kornfield, May 30, 2022. Safety campaign provides advice for displaced Ukrainians amid trafficking fears; Germany agrees to extra 100 billion euros in military spending.

Heavy fighting continues between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the streets of Severodonetsk, one of the last Ukrainian-held cities in the country’s eastern Luhansk region. Russian troops now control a strip of about 100 meters, head of the district administration said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 90 percent of the city’s buildings and all of its “critical infrastructure” have been destroyed as officials say Moscow is using air support for its assault.

Moscow has focused its recent efforts on eastern Ukraine, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the Donetsk and Luhansk regions Moscow’s “absolute priority.” At the same time, Ukraine’s military announced offensive operations in the southeast, outside of Kherson, which they said put Russian forces on the defensive.

In Monday morning talks, E.U. ambassadors did not reach a deal to phase out imports of oil from Russia, amid ongoing opposition from Hungary, keeping the issue on the E.U.’s agenda — and Russian oil flowing.

Here’s what else to know

  • President Biden told reporters on Monday morning that the United States would not “send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”
  • Zelensky is set to address a special European Council summit scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
  • Ukrainian forces in the east of Ukraine have spoken of their suffering on the front line as their country’s leaders urge the United States to provide more weapons.

 

Commentary

 

normandy american cemetery

WW II American Cemetery in Normandy, France

Steady, Commentary: Memorial Day Memories, Dan Rather, right, May 30, 2022. As we mark this day when we remember those who died in service dan rather 2017to our country, we find ourselves at a particularly fraught moment in our national journey.

I think back to the United States of my youth, leading up to, during, and immediately following the Second World War. There was a unity back then that allowed us to repel and then defeat one of the greatest threats to peace and security in human history. If only we could face the threats of today with that collective resolve.

At the same time, we must recognize that the nation was then deeply flawed, especially when it came to racial injustices. Black soldiers who fought valiantly in combat returned to a country that treated them with contempt and even violence.

Japanese Americans had been rounded up and put in internment camps, even as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of Japanese-American soldiers, would fight with such bravery and fierce determination that it became one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history.

This history cannot be forgotten; it must be taught. Our children must also learn, and we must be reminded, about the sheer cost of war in blood and treasure. When it comes to World War II, the number of people still alive who remember firsthand that combat, and even what the war was like on the homefront, is rapidly diminishing. This is my generation, and the one just before mine. I know and feel the slipping bonds of this living history.

With this consideration in mind, I share here an excerpt of our book "What Unites Us" that is pertinent to these Memorial Day ruminations:

American FlagMany memories will die when those of us who remember the Second World War pass on: the shock of Pearl Harbor, the shifting fortunes in the European and Pacific theaters, the dawning horror of the full scope of the Holocaust. But less dramatic and more personal memories will also disappear forever, like our emotional response to the American war songs that were produced to comfort and rally a nation. To later generations, those songs of the early 1940s, with their simple tunes and lyrics that verge on (or sometimes even surpass) the jingoistic, may at best rise to the level of intellectual curiosity. But if I hear just a few bars of many of them, my eyes sometimes dampen, and it’s hard to sing the lyrics without a quiver in my voice.

The words and music transport me back. I remember so many neighbors waiting nervously for news of loved ones fighting in battles overseas; I remember mourning parents, children left without fathers; and I remember the knocks on doors that changed lives in an instant. The world of my youth was engulfed in a desperate fight for the survival of humanity, but these songs remind me that we remained in some ways oddly innocent. Simple songs of heroism and sacrifice, with evocative titles like “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” were welcomed and embraced by a grateful public without cynicism.

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida’s GOP beat the gun lobby. Congress hasn’t followed, Mike DeBonis, May 28, 2022.  In 2018, Florida banned weapons sales to those younger than 21, imposed a three-day waiting period and created a “red flag” law. Republicans doubt the same can happen at the federal level.

After a teenage gunman killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers inside a Texas elementary school Tuesday, Democrats on Capitol Hill quickly lamented Republican lawmakers’ years of intransigence on gun control.

“No matter the cause of violence and no matter the cost on the families,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday, “nothing seems to move them.”

But that broadside wasn’t entirely accurate: Not long ago, GOP lawmakers bucked ferocious pressure from the National Rifle Association to pass significant new gun restrictions after a deadly school shooting, which were then signed into law by a fiercely conservative Republican.

It just didn’t happen in Washington.

Three weeks after 17 people were gunned down in 2018 inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill that included provisions banning weapons sales to those younger than 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on most long-gun purchases, and creating a “red flag” law allowing authorities to confiscate weapons from people deemed to constitute a public threat.

The NRA’s powerful leader in the state, Marion P. Hammer, condemned Republicans backing the bill as “betrayers.” But 75 out of 99 GOP lawmakers voted for it anyway, and Scott — who was preparing to seek a U.S. Senate seat — signed it, calling the bill full of “common-sense solutions.” Other provisions of the bill included $400 million for mental health and school security programs, and an initiative, fiercely opposed by Democrats, that would allow teachers and school staff to be trained as armed “guardians.”

  • Washington Post, Sen. Murphy allows for some optimism in gun legislation talks with GOP, May 30, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Uvalde mourns as demands for accountability intensify, Teo Armus, Robert Barnes, Yeganeh Torbati and Seung Min Kim, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead as troubling accounts of law enforcement’s delayed response to the shooting emerged.

Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead, while demands for accountability increased Saturday after officials acknowledged law enforcement officers improperly waited an excruciatingly long time before rushing the classroom where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

Rogelio M. Muñoz, a former city council member who left the panel because of term limits, said in an interview Saturday morning that what the community had learned so far about the police response is “very concerning.”

Texas authorities made clear on Friday that many things went wrong earlier in the week. Muñoz criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety for its shifting accounts of what occurred at the school on Tuesday, but he cautioned against drawing too many conclusions.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, said, “We’re all angry. Law enforcement’s angry,” during an interview with CNN on Saturday morning. He said he spoke on Saturday with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and that the two men cried together.

The latest official — and troubling — accounts of how that day unfolded have come from McCraw. He confirmed that officers waited for nearly an hour in a hallway outside the locked classroom, where authorities say Salvador Rolando Ramos was shooting children and killing their teachers.

McCraw said local authorities had incorrectly concluded that the gunman was no longer an active shooter and that no more children were at risk. But children inside the room repeatedly called 911 pleading for help, McCraw said.

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for New York Times).

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for The New York Times).

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Ukraine Strikes Back in South as Russia Pounds Key Eastern City, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrew E. Kramer, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Russia hammered the last Ukrainian controlled city in the eastern Luhansk region. Ukraine announced a counteroffensive in a southern port that Russia has held for months. Here’s the latest.

ukraine flagAs his military announced a counteroffensive around the southern port city of Kherson, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline positions near Kharkiv in the east. Russia is pushing to complete its occupation of the eastern Luhansk region.

Ukraine has declared that it is mounting a counteroffensive to reclaim territory around the southern port city of Kherson, as Russia devotes the bulk of its forces to pounding eastern Ukraine and capturing Sievierodonetsk, the last Ukrainian controlled city in the Luhansk region.

Russian FlagKherson was the first major city to fall as Russian forces swept north out of Crimea more than three months ago, and it has provided a key staging ground for Russian operations across southern Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russian forces — stretched thin and taking heavy losses as they gain ground in the eastern Donbas region — have concentrated their efforts in the south on fortifying defensive positions.

“Hold on Kherson,” the Ukrainian military said on Twitter on Sunday morning. “We’re coming.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky made a rare journey outside Kyiv on Sunday to visit frontline positions around the eastern city of Kharkiv, a trip intended to underscore the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to drive Russia back from Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Ukrainian officials have for weeks telegraphed plans to launch a new southern counteroffensive threatening Russia’s supply routes into Kherson on bridges over the Dnipro River. But they said the maneuver would require the delivery of Western artillery systems that had been promised by the United States and other allies.

It was not clear if new weapons were having an effect in the fight to reclaim territory around Kherson, but the Ukrainian military said Saturday evening that Russia had suffered losses as its forces were driven back to “unfavorable” positions around several villages and had been forced to call up reservists to serve as reinforcements, claims that could not be independently verified.

Mr. Zelensky, speaking to the nation overnight, said that delivery of ever more powerful Western weapons was also vital in the “indescribably difficult” defense of the eastern Donbas region.

“Every day we are bringing closer the time when our army will surpass the occupiers technologically and by firepower,” he said. But that, ultimately, depends on continued and expanded Western support.

The Biden administration has approved sending long-range multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine, a significant transfer that could hugely aid the country, U.S. officials said on Friday. Mr. Zelensky suggested an official announcement could come this week.

In other developments:

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany sought to revive diplomatic discussions during an 80-minute phone call on Saturday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
  • Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that sophisticated Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles had arrived. He said the Harpoons came courtesy of Denmark and would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odesa.
  • The importance of long-range weapons systems is potentially decisive in the war.
  • Ukraine is holding on to its control of Sievierodonetsk, the last city it holds in the eastern Luhansk province, but Mr. Zelensky described the situation there as “indescribably difficult.”
  • Russia systematically uses thermobaric weapons in Ukraine.
  • Serbia reaches a new deal with Russia to supply natural gas for three years (Marc Santora). President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia said on Sunday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had agreed to a new deal to supply Serbians with natural gas for three years, according to state media, deepening the bond between Moscow and its strongest ally in Europe.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Emptywheel, How Judge Cooper rewrote the Michael Sussmann indictment, emptywheel (Dr.  Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right, independent national security analyst), May 30, 2022. I’ve been tracking a marcy wheelerdispute about the jury instructions in the Michael Sussmann trial, but only got time to check the outcome last night. At issue was whether some of the extraneous language from the indictment would be included in the description of the charge.

Sussmann had wanted the instructions to include that language claiming Sussmann was lying to hide two clients.

christopher cooperWhen Judge Cooper (left) instructed the jury, however, he rewrote the indictment approved by the grand jury to reflect that maybe Sussmann was just hiding one client.

Now, perhaps there was some discussion I missed finding that the government only had to prove Sussmann was hiding one client — the disjunctive proof business, above. And perhaps it will not matter — I think Sussmann’s team raised plenty of issues with Jim Baker’s credibility such that the jury will find the whole prosecution preposterous, but I also think Durham’s team may have thrown enough cow manure at the jury to stifle rational thought.

But this slight change — unilaterally replacing “and” with “or” — seems to intervene to help Durham recover from one of the most abusive aspects of the prosecution, his failure to take basic investigative steps before charging Sussmann.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Investigates Basquiat Paintings Shown at Orlando Museum of Art, Brett Sokol, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). The authenticity of 25 paintings, largely unseen before the exhibition’s February opening, is being investigated, according to a federal subpoena.

The ongoing cultural fascination with the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat shows little signs of dimming, whether it’s in the form of brisk sales for $29.99 Basquiat-themed T-shirts at The Gap, large crowds for Basquiat’s latest art exhibitions, or an actual canvas by the painter auctioned last week for $85 million.

To the ranks of those focused intently on all things Basquiat, you can now add the F.B.I.

The F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team is investigating the authenticity of 25 paintings that the Orlando Museum of Art says were created by Basquiat and are on exhibit there, according to a federal subpoena and several people with knowledge about the situation.

The paintings in the “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition were said by the museum and their owners to have been recovered from a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The works were largely unseen before the show’s February opening. An article in The New York Times raised questions about their authenticity, reporting that a designer who had previously worked for Federal Express had identified the FedEx typeface on a piece of cardboard Basquiat was said to have painted on as one that was not designed until 1994 — six years after the artist’s death.

The paintings’ owners and the museum’s director and chief executive, Aaron De Groft, say the paintings are genuine Basquiats, citing statements from art world experts commissioned by the owners. And the chairwoman of the museum’s board, Cynthia Brumback, has publicly supported De Groft. The paintings are set to leave the museum on June 30 for public exhibitions in Italy.

The Hill, Garland urges public service in Harvard address: ‘Democracy is under threat,’ Olafimihan Oshin, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Attorney General Merrick Garland urged Harvard University’s graduating class to go into public service to combat the ongoing turmoil in the U.S., saying that “democracy is under threat.”

Delivering his commencement address to the university’s graduating class of 2020 and 2021 on Sunday, Garland spoke about how he saw citizens offering to volunteer in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

“Earlier in my career, I spent weeks in Oklahoma City investigating the bombing of a federal building,” Garland said. “I saw – and I felt – how consequential an outpouring of volunteer services could be. Oklahomans lined up to offer care and comfort to those who were hurting – survivors and first responders, neighbors and strangers alike.”

“But it should not take a tragedy to prompt us to look for ways, that day in and day out, we can help those who need our help,” Garland added.

“There is one particular reason that makes my call to public service especially urgent for your generation. It is an urgency that should move each of you, regardless of the career you choose,” Garland said. “It is the urgent need to defend democracy.”

 Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time for Biden to attack the White-grievance industry, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 30, 2022. On Saturday — the jennifer rubin new headshotday before he departed for Uvalde, Tex. — President Biden told University of Delaware graduates: “In the face of such destructive forces, we have to stand stronger. We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.” He also warned of the “oldest and darkest forces in America” preaching hate and “preying on hopelessness and despair.”

Biden is renowned for his expressions of empathy. But such language feels increasingly inadequate and, frankly, counterproductive in the face of nonstop political outrage.

Now is the time for precise language. “Forces” are not the problem; one political movement encased within the Republican Party is. “Ultra-MAGA” ideas are not the problem; Republicans spouting anti-American ideas that threaten functional democracy are.

It’s not the plague of “polarization” or “distrust,” some sort of floating miasma, that has darkened our society. Bluntly put, we are in deep trouble because a major party rationalizes both intense selfishness — the refusal to undertake even minor inconveniences such as mask-wearing or gun background checks for others’ protection — and deprivation of others’ rights (to vote, to make intimate decisions about reproduction, to be treated with respect).

washington post logoWashington Post, After losses in Georgia, Trump sets sights on ousting Liz Cheney in Wyo., David Weigel and Josh Dawsey, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Trump has rallied behind a candidate he is wagering can topple his most outspoken Republican critic in Congress.

liz cheney oSince her father’s first victory 44 years ago, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, right, and her family have never lost an election in Wyoming. When George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney as his running mate, the Republican ticket won by about 40 points, twice.

Former president Donald Trump is determined to end that streak this summer, rallying aggressively behind primary challenger Harriet Hageman, who he is wagering can topple his most outspoken Republican critic in Congress.

He hit the trail over the weekend in a very different Wyoming from years past, one where thousands cheered him as he railed against Cheney and looped together what he called the “failed foreign policy of the Clintons, Bushes, the Obamas and the Bidens.”

Attendees laughed when a photo mash-up of the congresswoman’s body and former president George W. Bush’s face appeared on the Ford Wyoming Center’s highest screen. “I think she looks good,” Trump joked. “Liz Cheney is about America last.”

Trump recalibrates his Republican standing after primary setbacks

The Aug. 16 primary in Wyoming is shaping up as the next big test of Trump’s effort to unseat Republican elected officials who have been critical of him and who fought his falsehood-ridden attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Orlando Sentinel, Chair's arrest on 'ghost' candidate probe shines harsh spotlight on Seminole County, Annie Martin, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). The chair of the Seminole County Republican Party was arrested in connection to an election fraud scheme involving fake candidates,

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Truth emerges about Chinese repression of Uyghurs — no thanks to the U.N., Editorial Board, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). A consortium of U.S., European and Japanese media organizations has published an extraordinary cache of leaked photographs and documents from inside China’s vast system of “reeducation” internment centers, making plain beyond any doubt that millions of Muslim Uhygurs — including children and elderly people — have been oppressed since Beijing launched its program, officially labeled genocide by the United States, in 2017.

The Xinjiang Police Files, as the cache is known, prove that, in a single Xinjiang county, 22,762 residents, more than 12 percent of the adult population, were interned in a camp or prison during 2017 and 2018. The files include the text of a speech in which the official in charge of the crackdown mentions President Xi Jinping’s detailed knowledge of the repression, and his orders to continue it. This devastating material, especially the images of clearly bewildered, even tearful, detainees, "blows apart the Chinese propaganda veneer,” as Adrian Zenz, a scholar at the U.S.-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who received, authenticated and collated the material, told the BBC.

Yet Beijing insists on its coverup, with the Chinese Embassy in Washington declaring, in response to the Xinjiang Police Files revelations, that the critics are disseminating “lies and disinformation.”

Which brings us to the just-completed six-day visit to China by Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and current U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Billed as the first such trip to China by an occupant of her office since 2005, it comes roughly three years since Ms. Bachelet first proposed a fact-finding mission related to the Uhygurs and six months since her office announced it was about to release a highly critical report on their plight.

That report has still not been published, however. The timing of her visit, permission for which Beijing announced in March, creates an appearance that the document was withheld in return for access to China for Ms. Bachelet.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hungary is still holding up E.U. push to phase out Russian oil, Emily Rauhala, May 30, 2022. The issue now threatens to overshadow a two-day European Council summit on the war in Ukraine that starts Monday.

The European Union is not done talking about Russian oil. Nor is it done buying it.

In Monday morning talks, E.U. ambassadors once again failed to reach a deal to phase out imports of oil from Russia because of the ongoing opposition from Hungary, keeping the issue on the E.U.’s agenda — and Russian oil flowing to Europe — for at least another day.

The issue now threatens to overshadow a two-day European Council summit on the war in Ukraine that starts Monday afternoon in Brussels, where E.U. leaders will discuss a watered down plan that would ban seaborne deliveries but exempt pipeline oil.

A senior E.U. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to brief the press, said the European Council hopes to reach a political agreement on the revised proposal Monday. It is not yet clear if all 27 leaders will sign on.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Colombia, two anti-establishment candidates head to a runoff, Samantha Schmidt, May 30, 2022. Colombians on Sunday gave a lead to a leftist presidential candidate for the first time in the country’s history, a vote that paved the way for an unusual runoff race between two populist, anti-establishment candidates promising radical change in the third-largest nation in Latin America.

Gustavo Petro, a 62-year-old senator and former leftist guerrilla, rode a wave of support from young and poor voters frustrated with high levels of unemployment, inflation and violence in one of the most unequal societies in the region. With the preliminary count nearly complete, Petro had won about 40 percent of the first-round vote on Sunday, falling far short of the majority he needed to become president outright.

Instead, he will face off in a second round on June 19 with an outsider candidate who catapulted in the polls at the last minute: Rodolfo Hernández, a brash, 77-year-old engineer and wealthy businessman who pledges to root out corruption and has drawn comparisons to former U.S. president Donald Trump. Hernández, a former mayor of the midsize city of Bucaramanga, won about 28 percent of the votes.

washington post logoWashington Post, All 22 passengers feared dead in Nepali plane crash in the Himalayas, Shira Lal Bhusal, Rachel Pannett and Gerry Shih, May 30, 2022.  — Search-and-rescue officials in Nepal have recovered most of the bodies at the site of a plane crash in the Himalayan Mountains on Monday, one day after the twin-propeller plane carrying 22 people went missing shortly after takeoff.

 Recent Headlines

 

The Ransom: Investigating The Root of Haiti’s Misery

ny times logoNew York Times, Reparations to Enslavers, For generations, Haitians were forced to pay France for their freedom, Catherine Porter, Constant Méheut, Matt Apuzzo and Selam Gebrekidan, Updated May 26, 2022. How much was a mystery — until now. The Times scoured centuries-old documents to find out.

For generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, including the Empress of Brazil; the son-in-law of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I; Germany’s last imperial chancellor; and Gaston de Galliffet, the French general known as the “butcher of the Commune” for crushing an insurrection in Paris in 1871. The burdens continued well into the 20th century.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s what we learned about what Haiti was forced to pay after overthrowing France, Eric Nagourney, May 20, 2022. A failed state. An aid trap. A land seemingly cursed by nature and human nature alike.

When the world looks at Haiti, one of the poorest nations on the planet, sympathy for its endless suffering is often overshadowed by scolding and sermonizing about corruption and mismanagement.

Some know how Haitians overthrew their notoriously brutal French slave masters and declared independence in 1804 — the modern world’s first nation born of a slave revolt.

But few know the story of what happened two decades later, when French warships returned to a people who had paid for their freedom with blood, issuing an ultimatum: Pay again, in staggering amounts of cold hard cash, or prepare for war.

For generations, the descendants of enslaved people paid the descendants of their former slave masters, with money that could have been used to build schools, roads, clinics or a vibrant economy.

For years, as New York Times journalists have chronicled Haiti’s travails, a question has hovered: What if? What if the nation had not been looted by outside powers, foreign banks and its own leaders almost since birth? How much more money might it have had to build a nation?

For more than a year, a team of Times correspondents scoured long-forgotten documents languishing in archives and libraries on three continents to answer that question, to put a number on what it cost Haitians to be free. Here are the takeaways from a series of stories appearing this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, The French bank that captured Haiti: We tracked its profits — and Haiti’s losses, Matt Apuzzo, Constant Méheut, Selam Gebrekidan and Catherine Porter, Published May 20, 2022, Updated May 26, 2022. A Haitian president tried to hold France to account for its years of exploitation. He ended up in exile. ​The U.S. occupation of Haiti began with the bank that became Citigroup, records show.

Haiti’s central bank was set up by a Parisian bank, Crédit Industriel et Commercial. At a time when the company was helping finance one of the world’s best-known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, as a monument to French liberty, it was choking Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country.

Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates. But its exploits in Haiti left a crippling legacy of financial extraction and dashed hopes — even by the standards of a nation with a long history of both.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid was vanishing last Memorial Day. Cases are five times higher now, Fenit Nirappil, Craig Pittman and Maureen O'Hagan, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Covid-weary Americans enter summer with little effort to contain a still-raging pandemic.

For the third year, Americans are greeting the unofficial start of summer shadowed by the specter of the coronavirus amid rising covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.

The United States is recording more than 100,000 infections a day — at least five times higher than this point last year — as it confronts the most transmissible versions of the virus yet. Immunity built up as a result of the record winter outbreak appears to provide little protection against the latest variants, new research shows. And public health authorities are bracing for Memorial Day gatherings to fuel another bump in cases, potentially seeding a summer surge.

It’s a far cry from a year ago, with predictions of a “hot vax summer” uninhibited by covid concerns. Back then, coronavirus seemed to teeter on the brink of defeat as cases plummeted to their lowest levels since spring 2020 and vaccines became widely available for adults. Even the vaccinated and boosted now grudgingly accept the virus as a formidable foe that’s here to stay as governments abandon measures to contain it.

Americans emerged from isolation last Memorial Day: 'Like the end of Prohibition'

As the virus morphs and the scientific understanding of how it operates shifts with each variant, Americans are drawing their own lines for what they feel comfortable doing.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 30, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 531,764,572, Deaths: 6,311,139
U.S. Cases:      85,716,214, Deaths: 1,031,273
Indian Cases:   43,155,749, Deaths:    524,611
Brazil Cases:    30,953,579, Deaths:    666,496

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Climate, Environment

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Another monster hurricane season looms as we dawdle on climate change, Editorial Board, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast that the coming hurricane season will see 14 to 21 named storms — and three to six Category 3 or above. This would be yet another in a series of abnormal seasons.

Scientists are only just coming to grips with the monster storm seasons of the recent past. The 2020 one brought a record 30 named storms to the North Atlantic, including 12 that hit the United States, causing some $40 billion in damage. A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications finds that climate change made these storms far worse than they would have been without human-caused global warming.

Predicting climate change’s effects on hurricanes has long been controversial. It is unclear, for example, just how rising world temperatures might alter the frequency of these battering storms, a fact that deniers of climate change often cite in their effort to play down its risks. But there is increasingly little doubt that human-caused warming is heating ocean-surface temperatures, which fuel big storms. The result appears to be stronger hurricanes.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Forest Service’s Planned Burn Caused Largest New Mexico Wildfire, Amanda Holpuch, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, which merged, started as prescribed burns intended to prevent wildfires, federal officials said.

A wildfire in northern New Mexico that destroyed at least 330 homes and displaced thousands of people was caused by a planned burn by the U.S. Forest Service, federal fire investigators said on Friday.

The Calf Canyon fire escaped containment lines and merged with the Hermits Peak fire, which was also caused by an out-of-control planned burn, to form the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history.

The combined Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire has burned more than 312,000 acres, threatening remote mountain villages and forcing thousands to evacuate, sometimes repeatedly, over the past two months.

The fire was 47 percent contained as of Friday morning, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said. It warned that the Memorial Day holiday weekend could pose more challenges for firefighters because of increased traffic and recreational activities that could cause fires in the dry, hot weather. Fire officials cautioned about the use of, among other things, campfires and wood stoves.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tropical Storm Agatha Moves Toward Mexican Coast, Alex Traub, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). This year’s first named storm in the eastern Pacific has the potential to become a Category 2 hurricane, forecasters said on Saturday.

Tropical Storm Agatha, the first named storm this year in the eastern Pacific, is hurtling toward the Mexican coast and has the potential to become a hurricane, triggering life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

Agatha could make landfall on Monday as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Hurricane Center, said on Saturday.

Agatha was headed toward the largely rural Mexican state of Oaxaca and was expected to dissipate Wednesday morning. A hurricane watch was posted for the southern coast of Mexico, from Salina Cruz to Punta Maldonado.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, First she documented the alt-right. Now she’s coming for crypto, Gerrit De Vynck, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Molly White, a veteran Wikipedia editor, is fast becoming the cryptocurrency world’s biggest critic.

In a strange, animated YouTube video, Cryptoland paints itself as the ultimate utopia, featuring luxurious villas, a casino and a private club, all located on a pristine island in Fiji. Built by and for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, it was looking for investors.

To Molly White, the project wasn’t just cringeworthy bluster, it was promotional material for yet another potential scam — one that was targeting the money of real people. Digging into Cryptoland’s organizing documents, she found a business plan full of contradictions and other red flags, like an address in the Seychelles islands, a tax haven which has hosted previous high-profile crypto scams.

White unpacked the project in a dashed-off Twitter thread, which went viral, kicking off a wave of criticism and ridicule and spawning copycat videos that boast millions of views. Now, Cryptoland’s website appears inactive, and supporters have abandoned it. Requests for comment to its founders were not answered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Fifty years ago, margaret sullivan 2015 photothe nation was gripped by media coverage of Nixon’s crimes — and there was no Fox News to tell it to look away.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Watergate in the next several weeks, as the 50th anniversary of the infamous June 17, 1972, burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters approaches. There will be documentaries, cable-news debates, the finale of that Julia Roberts miniseries (“Gaslit”) based on the popular Watergate podcast (“Slow Burn”). I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the Library of Congress on the anniversary itself — and you can certainly count on a few retrospectives in this very newspaper.

The scandal has great resonance at The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973 for its intrepid reporting and the courage it took to publish it. And it has particular meaning for me, because, like many others of my generation, I was first drawn into journalism by the televised Senate hearings in 1973, and I was enthralled by the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of his co-conspirator aides to prison is a nation that no longer exists.

washington post logoWashington Post, French journalist killed in strike on humanitarian convoy, officials say, Meryl Kornfield and Tara Bahrampour, May 30, 2022. A French photojournalist covering evacuation efforts in eastern Ukraine was killed during a Russian strike that hit the humanitarian truck he was in, officials say.

Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was carrying press credentials, was fatally wounded after shrapnel pierced the armored evacuation truck that was about to pick up refugees near Severodonetsk, a focal point of the ongoing battle, according to Ukrainian officials. The shrapnel struck his neck.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Lia Thomas Could Mean for Women’s Elite Sports, Michael Powell, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Although the number of top transgender athletes is small, the disagreements are profound, cutting to the core of the debate around gender identity and biological sex.

The women on the Princeton University swim team spoke of collective frustration edging into anger. They had watched Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, win meet after meet, beating Olympians and breaking records.

On Jan. 9, the team met with Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League athletic conference.

The swimmers, several of whom described the private meeting on condition of anonymity, detailed the biological advantages possessed by transgender female athletes. To ignore these, they said, “was to undermine a half-century fight for female equality in sport.”

Ms. Harris had already declared her support for transgender athletes and denounced transphobia. In an interview, she said that she had replied that she would not change rules in midseason. “Somehow,” a swimmer recalled, “the question of women in sport has become a culture war.”

The battle over whether to let female transgender athletes compete in women’s elite sports has reached an angry pitch, a collision of competing principles: The hard-fought-for right of women to compete in high school, college and pro sports versus a swelling movement to allow transgender athletes to compete in their chosen gender identities.

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May 29

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World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

The Ransom: Investigating The Root of Haiti’s Misery

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy


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uvalde victims washington post logoWashington Post, Police Failure In Texas school shooting, Tim Craig, Hannah Allam, Annie Gowen and Mark Berman, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). In Uvalde, 90 minutes of terror, a failed police response, shattered trust. A more reliable chronology is emerging through official statements, 911 logs, social media posts and interviews with survivors and witnesses. The revelations tell a story of institutional failure at the expense of unprotected children.

After slipping into Robb Elementary through an unlocked side entrance, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos stormed into adjoining classrooms and informed terrified fourth graders that it was “time to die.”

“Good night,” Ramos said, before shooting and killing a teacher.

Students were next, according to witness accounts. Children who had been watching “Lilo & Stitch” scrambled for hiding places. Hot shrapnel burned through the dressy outfits some had worn for an awards ceremony earlier on the morning of May 24. One girl smeared herself with a classmate’s blood and played dead.

The attack went on for so long, witnesses said, that the gunman had time to taunt his victims before killing them, even putting on songs that one student described to CNN as “I-want-people-to-die music.” As the minutes ticked by, increasingly desperate students called 911.

At 12:03 p.m., a girl called 911 for a little over a minute and whispered that she was in Room 112, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw. She called back at 12:10 p.m. reporting multiple people dead, he said, and again a few minutes later, to say there were still a number of students alive.

“Please send the police now,” the girl begged the dispatcher at 12:43 p.m., 40 minutes after her first call.

More time would lapse before authorities finally entered and killed Ramos just before 1 p.m. By then, the gunman had turned a sleepy afternoon at the end of the school year into a 90-minute massacre — an attack prolonged and worsened by the failure of security measures and a catastrophically slow response from authorities in this southern Texas town.

In all, 19 children and two teachers were killed, with another 17 people wounded, a devastating toll for a small, tightly woven, largely Hispanic community where it was common for relatives to be in the same class at school. In the days that followed, local heartbreak bubbled into rage as Texas officials waxed on about police bravery, glossing over law enforcement missteps that took days to acknowledge.

ny times logoNew York Times, States Rush Toward New Gun Restrictions as Congress Remains Gridlocked, Shawn Hubler and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, May 29, 2022. Democratic leaders are demanding immediate action after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In Republican-controlled statehouses, the reaction is the opposite. The moves come amid waning hope for congressional consensus on gun violence and other American social issues.

Congress failed to impose gun restrictions after the school massacres in Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., and there’s little confidence that 21 deaths at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, will change matters now.

But states aren’t waiting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy urged lawmakers to advance firearms safety measures, including raising the age to 21 for purchases of long guns and exposing gun makers to civil lawsuits.

In New York — where an 18-year-old in Buffalo was charged two weeks ago with committing a racist mass shooting — Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would seek to ban people under 21 from purchasing AR-15-style rifles.

And in California — where a politically motivated mass shooting erupted at a luncheon of older churchgoers this month — legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom fast-tracked tougher controls on firearms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mass Shooting Live Updates: For the second time in two weeks, President Biden visits families devastated by a mass joe biden jill biden school shooting may 24 2022 white houseshooting, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). The president and first lady visit families and attend church services in Uvalde.

The community is debating the role of guns and a commander’s decision not to enter the classrooms. Just 12 days after mourning with families of victims of a mass shooting in Buffalo, President Biden will travel to Texas on Sunday to console a community suffering from yet another massacre of young children.

During his visit to the town of Uvalde, Mr. Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, visited with religious leaders and families of the 19 children and two teachers gunned down last week, according to the White House. The first couple visited the memorial at Robb Elementary School before attending Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The Bidens then met with families and first responders. The trips of condolences by Mr. Biden are becoming a common, solemn ritual of the presidency as another American town grapples with the unbearable pain of a school shooting, even as families in Buffalo buried victims of another massacre this month.

  • Washington Post, Biden visits Uvalde, a city in mourning, Peter Jamison, Amy B Wang, Teo Armus and Seung Min Kim, May 29, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Uvalde mourns as demands for accountability intensify, Teo Armus, Robert Barnes, Yeganeh Torbati and Seung Min Kim, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead as troubling accounts of law enforcement’s delayed response to the shooting emerged.

Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead, while demands for accountability increased Saturday after officials acknowledged law enforcement officers improperly waited an excruciatingly long time before rushing the classroom where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

Rogelio M. Muñoz, a former city council member who left the panel because of term limits, said in an interview Saturday morning that what the community had learned so far about the police response is “very concerning.”

Texas authorities made clear on Friday that many things went wrong earlier in the week. Muñoz criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety for its shifting accounts of what occurred at the school on Tuesday, but he cautioned against drawing too many conclusions.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, said, “We’re all angry. Law enforcement’s angry,” during an interview with CNN on Saturday morning. He said he spoke on Saturday with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and that the two men cried together.

The latest official — and troubling — accounts of how that day unfolded have come from McCraw. He confirmed that officers waited for nearly an hour in a hallway outside the locked classroom, where authorities say Salvador Rolando Ramos was shooting children and killing their teachers.

McCraw said local authorities had incorrectly concluded that the gunman was no longer an active shooter and that no more children were at risk. But children inside the room repeatedly called 911 pleading for help, McCraw said.

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for New York Times).

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, The tools that can help prevent shootings, according to experts and educators, Laura Meckler, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). When Curtis Lavarello walks through the vendor hall at the huge school safety conference his organization sponsors this July, he will stop and marvel at just how useless some of the technology being marketed to schools is.

It won’t help prevent a shooting, he said, and could even hurt.

He cited a $400,000 system that fills hallways with smoke in hopes of stopping a shooter, noting that this same smoke would also obstruct law enforcement trying to intervene and children trying to escape.

“You’re going to see bizarre things you would never want to see in your child’s school,” said Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council.

Experts call it “school security theater" — the idea that if a school system buys enough technology or infrastructure, it can keep its children safe from the horrors of a gunman.

In reality, many say, strong relationships between students and staff and robust staff training to influence what may seem like small decisions by school personnel may be at least as important, if not far more.

Billions are being spent to protect children from school shootings. Does any of it work?

In the aftermath of another school shooting, school leaders, teachers, parents and others are debating, yet again, how the next one might be prevented. The national debate revolves around policy decisions: Should gun sales be restricted? Should teachers be armed?

For school systems, though, the questions often come down to what to buy, who to hire and how to prepare their staffs.

One security measure that enjoys broad consensus is keeping all external school doors locked, and forcing visitors to enter schools through a single entry point. This is a low-hanging-fruit solution that many districts have adopted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine Strikes Back in South as Russia Pounds Key Eastern City, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrew E. Kramer, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Russia hammered the last Ukrainian controlled city in the eastern Luhansk region. Ukraine announced a counteroffensive in a southern port that Russia has held for months. Here’s the latest.

ukraine flagAs his military announced a counteroffensive around the southern port city of Kherson, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline positions near Kharkiv in the east. Russia is pushing to complete its occupation of the eastern Luhansk region.

Ukraine has declared that it is mounting a counteroffensive to reclaim territory around the southern port city of Kherson, as Russia devotes the bulk of its forces to pounding eastern Ukraine and capturing Sievierodonetsk, the last Ukrainian controlled city in the Luhansk region.

Russian FlagKherson was the first major city to fall as Russian forces swept north out of Crimea more than three months ago, and it has provided a key staging ground for Russian operations across southern Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russian forces — stretched thin and taking heavy losses as they gain ground in the eastern Donbas region — have concentrated their efforts in the south on fortifying defensive positions.

“Hold on Kherson,” the Ukrainian military said on Twitter on Sunday morning. “We’re coming.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky made a rare journey outside Kyiv on Sunday to visit frontline positions around the eastern city of Kharkiv, a trip intended to underscore the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to drive Russia back from Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Ukrainian officials have for weeks telegraphed plans to launch a new southern counteroffensive threatening Russia’s supply routes into Kherson on bridges over the Dnipro River. But they said the maneuver would require the delivery of Western artillery systems that had been promised by the United States and other allies.

It was not clear if new weapons were having an effect in the fight to reclaim territory around Kherson, but the Ukrainian military said Saturday evening that Russia had suffered losses as its forces were driven back to “unfavorable” positions around several villages and had been forced to call up reservists to serve as reinforcements, claims that could not be independently verified.

Mr. Zelensky, speaking to the nation overnight, said that delivery of ever more powerful Western weapons was also vital in the “indescribably difficult” defense of the eastern Donbas region.

“Every day we are bringing closer the time when our army will surpass the occupiers technologically and by firepower,” he said. But that, ultimately, depends on continued and expanded Western support.

The Biden administration has approved sending long-range multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine, a significant transfer that could hugely aid the country, U.S. officials said on Friday. Mr. Zelensky suggested an official announcement could come this week.

In other developments:

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany sought to revive diplomatic discussions during an 80-minute phone call on Saturday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
  • Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that sophisticated Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles had arrived. He said the Harpoons came courtesy of Denmark and would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odesa.
  • The importance of long-range weapons systems is potentially decisive in the war.
  • Ukraine is holding on to its control of Sievierodonetsk, the last city it holds in the eastern Luhansk province, but Mr. Zelensky described the situation there as “indescribably difficult.”
  • Russia systematically uses thermobaric weapons in Ukraine.
  • Serbia reaches a new deal with Russia to supply natural gas for three years (Marc Santora). President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia said on Sunday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had agreed to a new deal to supply Serbians with natural gas for three years, according to state media, deepening the bond between Moscow and its strongest ally in Europe.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Face Search Engine Anyone Can Use Is Alarmingly Accurate, Kashmir Hill, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). PimEyes is a paid service that finds photos of a person from across the internet, including some the person may not want exposed.

For $29.99 a month, a website called PimEyes offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction: the ability to search for a face, finding obscure photos that would otherwise have been as safe as the proverbial needle in the vast digital haystack of the internet.

A search takes mere seconds. You upload a photo of a face, check a box agreeing to the terms of service and then get a grid of photos of faces deemed similar, with links to where they appear on the internet. The New York Times used PimEyes on the faces of a dozen Times journalists, with their consent, to test its powers.

PimEyes found photos of every person, some that the journalists had never seen before, even when they were wearing sunglasses or a mask, or their face was turned away from the camera, in the image used to conduct the search.

PimEyes found one reporter dancing at an art museum event a decade ago, and crying after being proposed to, a photo that she didn’t particularly like but that the photographer had decided to use to advertise his business on Yelp. A tech reporter’s younger self was spotted in an awkward crush of fans at the Coachella music festival in 2011. A foreign correspondent appeared in countless wedding photos, evidently the life of every party, and in the blurry background of a photo taken of someone else at a Greek airport in 2019. A journalist’s past life in a rock band was unearthed, as was another’s preferred summer camp getaway.

The Hill, Husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrested for DUI in California, Zach Schonfeld, May 29, 2022. The husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was arrested late Saturday night for driving under the influence in Northern California.

A public booking report by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office lists Paul Pelosi as being arrested just before midnight on Saturday and booked early Sunday morning on charges of driving under the influence. The arrest was first reported by TMZ.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for the Speaker, told The Hill in a statement that she was not with her husband at the time and would not be commenting on the matter.

Pelosi on Saturday afternoon was in Rhode Island, where she delivered a commencement address to Brown University graduates. Pelosi made no mention of the arrest in her remarks.

Pelosi’s husband was charged with driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, according to the booking report. His bail was set at $5,000.

The Napa County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Guns are a central part of life in Uvalde, but the elementary school shooting has opened rifts, Jack Healy and Natalie Kitroeff, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Living in a rural Texas town renowned for white-tailed deer hunting, where rifles are a regular prize at school raffles, Desirae Garza never thought much about gun laws. That changed after her 10-year-old niece, Amerie Jo, was fatally shot inside Robb Elementary School.

“You can’t purchase a beer, and yet you can buy an AR-15,” Ms. Garza said of the 18-year-old gunman who the authorities say legally bought two semiautomatic rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition days before killing 19 children and two teachers. “It’s too easy.”

But inside another Uvalde home, Amerie Jo’s father, Alfred Garza III, had a sharply different view. In the wake of his daughter’s killing, he said he was considering buying a holster to strap on the handgun he now leaves in his home or truck.

“Carrying it on my person is not a bad idea after all this,” he said.

An anguished soul-searching over Texas’ gun culture and permissive gun laws is unfolding across the latest community to be shattered by a shooter’s rampage.

Uvalde, a largely Mexican American city of 15,200 near the U.S. southern border, is a far different place from Parkland, Fla., or Newtown, Conn., which became centers of grass-roots gun control activism in the aftermath of the school shootings there.

Gun ownership is threaded into life here in a county that has elected conservative Democrats and twice supported former President Donald J. Trump. Several relatives of victims count themselves among Texas’ more than one million gun owners. Some grew up hunting and shooting. Others say they own multiple guns for protection.

Law&Crime, Enraged Americans Expected Uvalde Cops to Fight to the Death to Stop Elementary School Massacre. They Had No Legal Duty to Act, Aaron Keller, May 28, 2022. The law enforcement narrative about precisely what occurred this Tuesday when gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school has changed, changed, and changed again, but one thing has not: the law. And the law does not require police officers to rush guns-blazing into any dangerous situation, despite the fact that officers do sometimes put themselves in harm’s way to save innocent lives.

pro publica logoTexas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday touted the “amazing courage” of the police officers who he claimed were “running toward gunfire” to end the killing spree. By Friday, Abbott backtracked. He said he was “livid” to learn that officers waited about an hour to neutralize the gunman as children lay dying on the floor — some of them calling 911 and begging the police to save them.

Abbott claims he was originally “misled” on the facts.

Ramos shot his grandmother, fled, and crashed his truck at 11:28 a.m., the Associated Press wrote after compiling the law enforcement timeline. He entered Robb Elementary School at 11:33 a.m. and wasn’t dead until 12:58 p.m. by AP estimates.

“Please send the police now,” one girl pleaded by telephone while trapped in her classroom. The police waited more than 45 minutes to enter the room, authorities confirmed on Friday.

“It was the wrong decision,” said Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

NBC News reported that federal law enforcement agents were asked to stand down when they arrived at the scene. They finally went against the commands of local authorities, entered the school, and shot and killed Ramos, NBC said.

The shocking facts stand as a stark reminder of the underlying law. Despite frequent calls by the NRA — which included comments by Wayne LaPierre on Friday — and by conservative politicians for more police officers as a solution to mass shootings, the police have no legal duty to act to protect people when mass shootings occur.

Dan Cogdell, a Texas litigation attorney with Jones Walker LLP, told Law&Crime on Friday that Abbott’s most recent criticism of the police for not rushing into the school “is like the Menendez Brothers complaining about being orphans.”

“There is no legal obligation in Texas on the part of law enforcement to rush in as soon as they can,” Codgell said by telephone. “There’s just not — civil or criminal.”

Codgell said the public oftentimes confuses the actual legal obligations of law enforcement officers with what the police are taught and trained to do.

“Everybody’s going to hate law enforcement for not being the heroes we expect them to be, despite there not being a legal duty to act,” the attorney noted.

“Anyone that knows anything about active shooters — rule one is to interact and take action as quickly as possible,” Codgell said while referencing officers’ suggested training standards. “No one can or should argue about that for the obvious reason that they [the shooters] are taking lives.”

He noted that “the first hour is absolutely critical” in attempting to rescue those who have been shot but not immediately killed. In Uvalde, Texas, students were dying as law enforcement remained idle.

Indeed, local training documents in Uvalde are being widely referenced, reported, and criticized in connection with this week’s shooting. The facially tough-sounding standards espoused within those documents suggest fast action but contain many highly discretionary terms. For instance, one document uncovered by the New York Times says “[a] first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own life should consider another career field” (emphasis ours).

In legal terms, the word “should” is not the same as the words “must” or “shall.” Indeed, the training documents contain many other discretionary terms: officers “will usually be required” to do things, are “expected to” do things, and they are even lectured about “best hope” scenarios as to their behavior. The terms are guidelines, not mandates.

Even though officers are “trained to intervene as quickly as possible, and that means immediately, there is no legal requirement for them to do that — civil or criminal,” Codgell reiterated. “The law doesn’t change.”

The “no duty to act” doctrine dates back to at least 1855 at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the concept in cases like Deshaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1989). The could held 6-3 in Deshaney that a so-called “child protection team” had no duty to protect a child despite repeated and severe beatings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Checking Trump and Cruz at the N.R.A. Convention, Linda Qiu, May 28, 2022. The former president and the Texas senator made inaccurate or misleading claims about the efficacy of gun restrictions, gun ownership trends and school shootings.

Prominent Republicans defended gun rights at the National Rifle Association convention on Friday with some misleading claims about the efficacy of gun restrictions, gun ownership trends and school shootings.

What Was Said

“Gun bans do not work. Look at Chicago. If they worked, Chicago wouldn’t be the murder hellhole that it has been for far too long.” — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

This is misleading. Opponents of firearm restrictions frequently cite Chicago as a case study of why tough gun laws do little to prevent homicides. This argument, however, relies on faulty assumptions about the city’s gun laws and gun violence.

There were more gun murders in Chicago than in any other U.S. city in 2020, fueling the perception that it is the gun violence capital of the country. But Chicago is also the third-largest city in the country. Adjusted by population, the gun homicide rate was 25.2 per 100,000, the 26th highest in the country in 2020, according to data compiled by the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

The three cities with the highest gun homicide rates — Jackson, Miss.; Gary, Ind.; and St. Louis — had rates double that of Chicago’s or more. All are in states with more permissive gun laws than Illinois.

Chicago’s reputation for having the strictest gun control measures in the country is outdated. Mr. Cruz cited the city’s handgun ban — without noting that the Supreme Court nullified the ban in 2010. An appeals court also struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois in 2012, and the state began allowing possession of concealed guns in 2013 as part of the court decision.

Today, Illinois has tougher restrictions than most states, but it does not lead the pack, ranking No. 6 in Everytown’s assessment of the strength of state gun control laws, and No. 8 in a report card released by the Giffords Law Center, another gun control group. Conversely, the state ranked No. 41 in an assessment on gun rights from the libertarian Cato Institute.

Gun control proponents have also argued that the patchwork nature of gun laws in the country makes it difficult for a state like Illinois with tough restrictions on the books to enforce them in practice. A 2017 study commissioned by the city of Chicago found, for example, that 60 percent of guns used in crimes and recovered in Chicago came from out of state, with neighboring Indiana as the primary source.

What Was Said

“As for so-called assault rifles, which the left and the media love to demonize, these guns were banned for 10 years from 1994 to 2004. And the Department of Justice examined the effect of the ban and concluded it had zero statistically significant effect on violent crime.” — Mr. Cruz

This is exaggerated. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 banned the possession, transfer or domestic manufacturing of some semiautomatic assault weapons for 10 years. The Justice Department commissioned a 2004 study on the effect of the 1994 assault weapons ban.

The study found that, if renewed, “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement” as assault weapons were rarely used in the crimes.

But Christopher Koper, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., and the lead author of that study., has repeatedly said that the ban had mixed effects overall.

“My work is often cited in misleading ways that don’t give the full picture,” Mr. Koper previously told The New York Times. “These laws can modestly reduce shootings overall” and reduce the number and severity of mass shootings.

What Was Said

“We know that there are no more guns per capita in this nation today than there were 50 or 100 years ago. That’s worth underscoring. In 1972, the rate of per capita gun ownership in the United States was 43 percent. In 2021, the rate is 42 percent. The rate of gun ownership hasn’t changed. And yet acts of evil like we saw this week are on the rise.” — Mr. Cruz

This is misleading. In arguing that cultural issues, rather than the prevalence of guns, are to blame for mass shootings, Mr. Cruz conflated and distorted metrics of gun ownership.

The per capita number of guns in the United States roughly doubled from 1968 to 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service, from one gun for every two people to one gun per person. And it has continued to rise since, to about 1.2 guns for every person by 2018, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Truth emerges about Chinese repression of Uyghurs — no thanks to the U.N., Editorial Board, May 29, 2022. A consortium of U.S., European and Japanese media organizations has published an extraordinary cache of leaked photographs and documents from inside China’s vast system of “reeducation” internment centers, making plain beyond any doubt that millions of Muslim Uhygurs — including children and elderly people — have been oppressed since Beijing launched its program, officially labeled genocide by the United States, in 2017.

The Xinjiang Police Files, as the cache is known, prove that, in a single Xinjiang county, 22,762 residents, more than 12 percent of the adult population, were interned in a camp or prison during 2017 and 2018. The files include the text of a speech in which the official in charge of the crackdown mentions President Xi Jinping’s detailed knowledge of the repression, and his orders to continue it. This devastating material, especially the images of clearly bewildered, even tearful, detainees, "blows apart the Chinese propaganda veneer,” as Adrian Zenz, a scholar at the U.S.-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who received, authenticated and collated the material, told the BBC.

Yet Beijing insists on its coverup, with the Chinese Embassy in Washington declaring, in response to the Xinjiang Police Files revelations, that the critics are disseminating “lies and disinformation.”

Which brings us to the just-completed six-day visit to China by Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and current U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Billed as the first such trip to China by an occupant of her office since 2005, it comes roughly three years since Ms. Bachelet first proposed a fact-finding mission related to the Uhygurs and six months since her office announced it was about to release a highly critical report on their plight.

That report has still not been published, however. The timing of her visit, permission for which Beijing announced in March, creates an appearance that the document was withheld in return for access to China for Ms. Bachelet.

ny times logoNew York Times, Colombian Voters Head to the Polls in High-Stakes Election, Julie Turkewitz, May 29, 2022. Latin America’s third-largest nation is choosing a new president amid the mounting struggles of millions pushed into poverty during the pandemic. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Plane Crashes in Nepal With 22 Aboard, Government Says, Bhadra Sharma, May 29, 2022. A search was underway in Nepal on Sunday for a small plane with 22 people aboard that the government says crashed during a flight to a Himalayan tourist destination.

The Tara Air plane, a Canadian-made de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, which was carrying 19 passengers and three crew members, took off Sunday morning from the central city of Pokhara and headed for Jomsom, a village high in the Himalayas. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane during the flight, which normally takes about 30 minutes.

Citing statements of locals, a Nepal Army spokesperson said the plane might have crashed at the base camp of Manapathi peak. Locals reportedly told the army that they had seen a “burning plane” falling toward the middle of rough terrain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Seizes 2 Greek Tankers in the Persian Gulf, Farnaz Fassihi, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). The ships were taken in retaliation for Greece last month impounding, at the request of the United States, an Iranian oil tanker, according to Iranian news reports.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Friday that its naval forces in the Persian Gulf had seized two oil tankers belonging to Greece, escalating tensions between Iran and the West at a time when diplomatic efforts to revive the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program have stalled.

The two ships were seized in retaliation for Greece impounding an oil tanker in April carrying Iranian oil near its shore, with the seizure carried out at the request of the United States, according to reports in two semiofficial Iranian news agencies, Tasnim and Fars News, which are affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

The cargo of Iranian oil was then handed over to the United States for being in violation of American sanctions that ban Iran from selling its oil, according to Iranian news media, a claim that could not be independently verified.

According to The Associated Press, citing an anonymous Greek official, U.S. authorities had made a formal request that the ship’s cargo be seized and that Greece hand over the oil at one of its ports.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fall of the ‘Sun King’ of French TV, and the Myth of Seduction, Norimitsu Onishi, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Patrick Poivre d’Arvor has been accused by more than 20 women of rape, sexual assault and harassment in France’s belated #MeToo reckoning.

France’s most trusted anchorman for decades, he used to draw millions in an evening news program that some likened to a religious communion. In an earlier time, he embodied an ideal of the French male — at ease with himself, a TV journalist and man of letters, a husband and a father who was also, unabashedly, a great seducer of women.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, nicknamed the Sun King of French TV, seemed so confident of his reputation that last month he sued for defamation 16 women who had accused him of rape, sexual assault and harassment, saying that they were simply “jilted” and “bitter.”

Angered, nearly 20 women appeared together this month in a TV studio for Mediapart, France’s leading investigative news site, with some recounting rapes or assaults that lasted minutes, carried out with barely a few words.

 Recent Headlines

 

 

The Ransom: Investigating The Root of Haiti’s Misery

ny times logoNew York Times, Reparations to Enslavers, For generations, Haitians were forced to pay France for their freedom, Catherine Porter, Constant Méheut, Matt Apuzzo and Selam Gebrekidan, Updated May 26, 2022. How much was a mystery — until now. The Times scoured centuries-old documents to find out.

For generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, including the Empress of Brazil; the son-in-law of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I; Germany’s last imperial chancellor; and Gaston de Galliffet, the French general known as the “butcher of the Commune” for crushing an insurrection in Paris in 1871. The burdens continued well into the 20th century.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s what we learned about what Haiti was forced to pay after overthrowing France, Eric Nagourney, May 20, 2022. A failed state. An aid trap. A land seemingly cursed by nature and human nature alike.

When the world looks at Haiti, one of the poorest nations on the planet, sympathy for its endless suffering is often overshadowed by scolding and sermonizing about corruption and mismanagement.

Some know how Haitians overthrew their notoriously brutal French slave masters and declared independence in 1804 — the modern world’s first nation born of a slave revolt.

But few know the story of what happened two decades later, when French warships returned to a people who had paid for their freedom with blood, issuing an ultimatum: Pay again, in staggering amounts of cold hard cash, or prepare for war.

For generations, the descendants of enslaved people paid the descendants of their former slave masters, with money that could have been used to build schools, roads, clinics or a vibrant economy.

For years, as New York Times journalists have chronicled Haiti’s travails, a question has hovered: What if? What if the nation had not been looted by outside powers, foreign banks and its own leaders almost since birth? How much more money might it have had to build a nation?

For more than a year, a team of Times correspondents scoured long-forgotten documents languishing in archives and libraries on three continents to answer that question, to put a number on what it cost Haitians to be free. Here are the takeaways from a series of stories appearing this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, The French bank that captured Haiti: We tracked its profits — and Haiti’s losses, Matt Apuzzo, Constant Méheut, Selam Gebrekidan and Catherine Porter, Published May 20, 2022, Updated May 26, 2022. A Haitian president tried to hold France to account for its years of exploitation. He ended up in exile. ​The U.S. occupation of Haiti began with the bank that became Citigroup, records show.

Haiti’s central bank was set up by a Parisian bank, Crédit Industriel et Commercial. At a time when the company was helping finance one of the world’s best-known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, as a monument to French liberty, it was choking Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country.

Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates. But its exploits in Haiti left a crippling legacy of financial extraction and dashed hopes — even by the standards of a nation with a long history of both.

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Zelensky defiant despite Donbas setbacks, possible retreat from Severodonetsk, Julian Duplain, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset and Andrew Jeong, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday its forces now control Lyman, a key transport hub providing access to bridges over the Siversky Donets river, and the British Defense Ministry said most of the town has probably fallen into Russian hands.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sounded a defiant note on Friday, saying: “If the occupiers think that Lyman or Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong.”

Russian FlagRussia is also trying to encircle the eastern city of Severodonetsk, but the regional governor said Saturday that the city has not been cut off. The Pentagon described the city as “still being actively fought over,” and compared the Donbas clashes to a “knife fight” where control of territory has been shifting rapidly.

Russian forces in the occupied southern Kherson region have closed the borders to Ukrainian-held territory, Russian state media said Saturday. The regional capital, also called Kherson, was the first major city to fall to Russia following the Feb. 24 invasion.

Here’s what else to know

  • Disapproval of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is increasingly bubbling to the surface in Russia — from hawks demanding a more aggressive policy to officials and service members who want no part of the bloodshed.
  • Efforts to document war crimes committed during the conflict are hurtling ahead. But the array of investigations — involving more than a dozen countries and a slew of international and human rights organizations — has raised concerns about duplication and overlap.
  • Russia is responsible for inciting genocide and perpetrating atrocities that show an “intent to destroy” the Ukrainian people, a new legal analysis signed by more than 30 independent experts concluded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Drones. Crutches. Potatoes. Russian People Crowdfund Their Army, Anton Troianovski, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). A grass-roots movement to get basic supplies to soldiers fighting in Ukraine reflects the growing recognition among Russians that their military was unprepared.

Natalia Abiyeva is a real-estate agent specializing in rental apartments in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow. But lately, she has been learning a lot about battlefield medicine.

Packets of hemostatic granules, she found out, can stop catastrophic bleeding; decompression needles can relieve pressure in a punctured chest. At a military hospital, a wounded commander told her that a comrade died in his arms because there were no airway tubes available to keep him breathing.

Ms. Abiyeva, 37, has decided to take matters into her own hands. On Wednesday, she and two friends set out in a van for the Ukrainian border for the seventh time since the war began in February, bringing onions, potatoes, two-way radios, binoculars, first-aid gear and even a mobile dentistry set. Since the start of the war, she said, she has raised more than $60,000 to buy food, clothes and equipment for Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine.

“The whole world, it seems to me, is supporting our great enemies,” Ms. Abiyeva said in a phone interview. “We also want to offer our support, to say, ‘Guys, we’re with you.’”

Across Russia, grass-roots movements, led in large part by women, have sprung up to crowdsource aid for Russian soldiers. They are evidence of some public backing for President Vladimir V. Putin’s war effort — but also of the growing recognition among Russians that their military, vaunted before the invasion as a world-class fighting force, turned out to be woefully underprepared for a major conflict.

The aid often includes sweets and inspirational messages, but it goes far beyond the care packages familiar to Americans from the Iraq war. The most sought-after items include imported drones and night vision scopes, a sign that Russia’s $66 billion defense budget has not managed to produce essential gear for modern warfare.

“No one expected there to be such a war,” Tatyana Plotnikova, a business owner in the city of Novokuybyshevsk on the Volga, said in a phone interview. “I think no one was ready for this.”

Ms. Plotnikova, 47, has already made the 1,000-mile drive to the Ukrainian border twice, ferrying a total of three tons of aid, she says. Last week, she posted a new list of urgently needed items on her page on VKontakte, the Russian social network: bandages, anesthetics, antibiotics, crutches and wheelchairs.

Medical gear is in high demand in part because of the growing firepower of Ukraine’s military as the West increasingly fortifies it with powerful weapons. Aleksandr Borodai, a separatist commander and a member of the Russian Parliament, said in a phone interview that materials to treat shrapnel wounds and burns were needed “in great quantities” on the Russian side of the front. More than 90 percent of Russian injuries in some areas, he said, have recently been caused by artillery fire.

Mr. Borodai said that his units had noted the use of 155-millimeter shells fired by American howitzers, and that Russia’s leadership may have underestimated the determination of the West to support Ukraine.

“It’s not making the military operation go any faster from our point of view — it’s making our situation more difficult, I don’t deny it,” Mr. Borodai said, referring to Western weapons deliveries. “It’s possible that our military leaders were not ready for there to be such massive support on the part of the West.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Destruction in Ukraine’s East as Civilian Toll Rises, Megan Specia, Andrew E. Kramer and Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022. As Russia made gains in eastern Ukraine, including seizing the city of Lyman, the devastation in the region has widened a civilian crisis. Here’s the latest.

Russian forces’ capturing of Lyman made it the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. As civilian deaths and suffering mounted, a new report by international legal scholars and rights experts cited a “genocidal pattern” by Russia’s military.

And the strikes continued to exact a daily toll on Friday. In Dnipro, in east-central Ukraine, an official said that at least 10 people had been killed and at least 30 injured in early morning shelling in the city. He said a missile launched from Russia’s Rostov region had hit a Ukrainian National Guard facility.

Russian and Ukrainian officials confirmed on Friday that Russian forces had captured Lyman, the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. Lyman’s fall followed intense artillery bombardments, including from one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s conventional arsenal: fuel-air bombs that set off huge, destructive shock waves. And while the weapons’ use highlighted the pyrrhic victories Russia’s military has achieved in its scaled-down objectives in Ukraine’s east, its capturing of Lyman also showed its ability to gain ground using creeping advances.

The ripple effects of the war are also reaching out much farther than Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Grain shortages prompted by Ukraine’s inability to ship out its harvests amid a Russian blockade are increasing fears of a global food crisis, and Ukrainian officials continue to raise the alarm about the harm to civilians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned in an overnight address that Russian forces were trying to turn cities and towns in the east of the country “to ashes.” With civilians also being killed at an alarming rate, he charged that the actions amounted to “an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.”

A new report from international legal scholars released on Friday echoed such claims about the war generally. It said that mass killings, deliberate attacks on shelters or evacuation routes, and the indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas by Russian forces established a “genocidal pattern” indicating an intent to wipe out a substantial part of the Ukrainian population.

In other developments:

  • Several neighborhoods in Kharkiv, the northeastern city where the Ukrainians repelled an attempted Russian encirclement in mid-May, came under fire on Thursday, with at least nine people killed. It shattered a sense of relative peace that had begun returning to the country’s second-largest city.
  • Mr. Zelensky expressed frustration that the European Union had yet to approve a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that would include an oil embargo.
  • The Biden administration said it expected Russia to default on its bond payments to U.S. investors now that the Treasury Department has allowed to lapse a sanctions exemption that permitted Russia to make those payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia Struggles to Stave Off a Return to Soviet-Era Scarcity, Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The economic cost of the invasion of Ukraine could eventually alter President Vladimir Putin’s calculus. In aviation, a lack of crucial parts could ground much of the country’s fleet and make flying a game of ‘Russian roulette.’

Stung by Western sanctions, Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes, where shortages are stirring memories of the consumer wasteland that was the Soviet Union.

While it may be able to find new purveyors for some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India, Russia is increasingly determined to make its own — returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Already, Moscow is facing serious challenges.

Unable to secure spare parts from Western airplane manufacturers, for instance, the Russian aviation sector is facing a crisis. About 80 percent of Russia’s commercial fleet consists of foreign-made planes, predominantly from Airbus and Boeing, both of which have stopped doing business with Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Recent Headlines

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. won’t charge FBI agents accused of botching Larry Nassar case, Devlin Barrett, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Two former FBI agents accused of mishandling sex-abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (shown below in court with an attorney) will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

In a statement, officials said that after a “careful re-review of evidence,” the department “is adhering to its prior decision not to bring federal criminal charges,” adding: “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”

FBI logoJohn Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the decision “incomprehensible” and said the FBI agents “violated their oaths of office and colluded in the cover up of the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.” He said the timing of the announcement — shortly before a holiday weekend, and during coverage of a school shooting — “is one more cynical attempt by the [Justice Department] to cover up FBI complicity” in the Nassar scandal.

The decision marks the third time that federal prosecutors examined whether a senior FBI official and a case agent should be charged with lying about their work on the Nassar case. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco opened the review after several world-famous gymnasts in September gave tearful testimony to Congress, describing in horrifying detail the abuse they endured and their incredulity over the FBI’s decision not to further investigate Nassar after the allegations against him first surfaced.

Monaco, in announcing the review, said officials would look again at the issue because new evidence had surfaced. Though she did not specify what that evidence was, lawmakers have sharply criticized the Justice Department for not pursuing charges after the agency’s inspector general concluded a supervisory agent and his boss lied to internal investigators in a bid to cover up their failures.

It is rare for the Justice Department even to consider reopening a case that was closed without charges. One of the Nassar agents retired years ago and the other was fired last summer in the wake of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report, which found major missteps in the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar in 2015 that allowed him to victimize more patients before he was arrested by state authorities the following year.

In its statement, the Justice Department said it will “continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” and said it wanted to work with Congress to address unspecified gaps in the law to “help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable.”

richard blumenthal portraitSens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), left, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called the decision “infuriating.” In a joint statement, they said: "FBI agents who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse, did nothing, and then lied about it will face no legal consequences for their actions. Dozens of athletes would have been spared unimaginable abuse if these agents had just done their jobs. Their actions demand accountability.”

Simone Biles, below left, and three other high-profile gymnasts (Mykala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, shown below left to right in a pool photo by Saul Loeb of AFP on Sept. 15, 2021) gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year about Nassar’s abuse and the FBI’s failure to act.

simone biles mykala maroney aly raisman maggie nichols saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21

More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child-pornography charges, and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Investigates Basquiat Paintings Shown at Orlando Museum of Art, Brett Sokol, May 29, 2022. The authenticity of 25 paintings, largely unseen before the exhibition’s February opening, is being investigated, according to a federal subpoena.

The ongoing cultural fascination with the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat shows little signs of dimming, whether it’s in the form of brisk sales for $29.99 Basquiat-themed T-shirts at The Gap, large crowds for Basquiat’s latest art exhibitions, or an actual canvas by the painter auctioned last week for $85 million.

To the ranks of those focused intently on all things Basquiat, you can now add the F.B.I.

The F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team is investigating the authenticity of 25 paintings that the Orlando Museum of Art says were created by Basquiat and are on exhibit there, according to a federal subpoena and several people with knowledge about the situation.

The paintings in the “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition were said by the museum and their owners to have been recovered from a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The works were largely unseen before the show’s February opening. An article in The New York Times raised questions about their authenticity, reporting that a designer who had previously worked for Federal Express had identified the FedEx typeface on a piece of cardboard Basquiat was said to have painted on as one that was not designed until 1994 — six years after the artist’s death.

The paintings’ owners and the museum’s director and chief executive, Aaron De Groft, say the paintings are genuine Basquiats, citing statements from art world experts commissioned by the owners. And the chairwoman of the museum’s board, Cynthia Brumback, has publicly supported De Groft. The paintings are set to leave the museum on June 30 for public exhibitions in Italy.

The Hill, Garland urges public service in Harvard address: ‘Democracy is under threat,’ Olafimihan Oshin, May 29, 2022. Attorney General Merrick Garland urged Harvard University’s graduating class to go into public service to combat the ongoing turmoil in the U.S., saying that “democracy is under threat.”

Delivering his commencement address to the university’s graduating class of 2020 and 2021 on Sunday, Garland spoke about how he saw citizens offering to volunteer in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

“Earlier in my career, I spent weeks in Oklahoma City investigating the bombing of a federal building,” Garland said. “I saw – and I felt – how consequential an outpouring of volunteer services could be. Oklahomans lined up to offer care and comfort to those who were hurting – survivors and first responders, neighbors and strangers alike.”

“But it should not take a tragedy to prompt us to look for ways, that day in and day out, we can help those who need our help,” Garland added.

“There is one particular reason that makes my call to public service especially urgent for your generation. It is an urgency that should move each of you, regardless of the career you choose,” Garland said. “It is the urgent need to defend democracy.”

 

 Katherine Magbanua testifying on May 26, 2022 (Photo via Law&Crime).

Law&Crime, Woman Convicted of Helping Assassinate FSU Law Professor Dan Markel, Alberto Luperon, May 29, 2022. Katherine Magbanua, 38, was convicted on Friday of helping murder law professor Dan Markel, 41, in a 2014 assassination. She did not pull the trigger, but served as a pivotal middlewoman between the lead plotters and the shooters, prosecutors have said. Charges were first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

pro publica logo“She herself was the stage manager in this thing,” prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said in closing arguments on Friday.

Defense lawyer Tara Kawass attacked the state’s case, saying that the prosecution cherry picked evidence and avoided details that showed Magbanua’s innocence. She called this the “anatomy of a wrongful prosecution.”

Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, was attacked at his home on July 18, 2014. He had pulled into the driveway while on the phone with a friend, and found someone there he did not know, officers have said. Shot twice in the face, he died the next day.

Prosecutors have said it was ex-wife’s family who set up the assassination for custody of Markel’s son. Markel had an ugly divorce with fellow FSU professor Wendi Adelson.

Authorities are saying that Wendi’s brother Charlie Adelson—who was indicted last month in Markel’s death—used Magbanua, his then-girlfriend, to find someone to carry out the killing. That someone was Sigfredo Garcia, the father of Katherine’s children.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fraternity Brothers Acquitted on Most Serious Charges in Student’s Death, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Vimal Patel, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). The two men were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in the death of Stone Foltz, a 20-year-old Bowling Green State University sophomore. But they were convicted of hazing and other lesser counts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Gets 15 Months in Prison for Punching Flight Attendant in the Face, Vimal Patel, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors said Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, will also have to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine for the May 2021 attack, which was widely viewed online.

A California woman who repeatedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last year, bloodying her face and chipping three of her teeth, was sentenced on Friday to 15 months in federal prison, prosecutors said.

The woman, Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, will also have to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. A video of the attack, which occurred in May 2021, was widely viewed on social media.

Judge Todd W. Robinson of United States District Court also ordered Ms. Quinonez to be on supervised release for three years after completing her sentence, during which she will be barred from flying on any commercial aircraft.

The assault came amid a surge of unruly and violent behavior by passengers who shoved, struck and yelled at flight attendants. Within days of the attack, two major airlines, American and Southwest, postponed plans to begin serving alcohol again on flights, in an effort to stop the behavior. Both airlines have since resumed alcohol sales.

In a letter dated May 18 and addressed to Judge Robinson, a Southwest representative said that the company wanted the sentence to serve as a deterrent to unruly and violent behavior. The letter said that the company’s executive team had heard from “countless flight attendants” who felt under attack during a pandemic that pushed fear around travel to an all-time high.

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Illegal Immigration Is Down, Changing the Face of California Farms, Eduardo Porter, Photographs by Ryan Christopher Jones, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Farmers are turning to workers on seasonal visas and mechanizing what they can. Many labor-intensive crops are shifting south of the border.

It looks like a century-old picture of farming in California: a few dozen Mexican men on their knees, plucking radishes from the ground, tying them into bundles. But the crews on Sabor Farms’ radish patch, about a mile south of the Salinas River, represent the cutting edge of change, a revolution in how America pulls food from the land.

For starters, the young men on their knees are working alongside technology unseen even 10 years ago. Crouched behind what looks like a tractor retrofitted with a packing plant, they place bunches of radishes on a conveyor belt within arm’s reach, which carries them through a cold wash and delivers them to be packed into crates and delivered for distribution in a refrigerated truck.

The other change is more subtle, but no less revolutionary. None of the workers are in the United States illegally.
Continue reading the main story

Both of these transformations are driven by the same dynamic: the decline in the supply of young illegal immigrants from Mexico, the backbone of the work force picking California’s crops since the 1960s.

The new demographic reality has sent farmers scrambling to bring in more highly paid foreign workers on temporary guest-worker visas, experiment with automation wherever they can and even replace crops with less labor-intensive alternatives.

“Back in the day, you had people galore,” said Vanessa Quinlan, director of human resources at Sabor Farms. These days, not so much: Some 90 percent of Sabor’s harvest workers come from Mexico on temporary visas, said Jess Quinlan, the farm’s president and Ms. Quinlan’s husband. “We needed to make sure we had bodies available when the crop is ready,” he said.

Politico, Prosecution: 'Overwhelming' evidence of guilt for Clinton campaign attorney, Josh Gerstein, May 27, 2022. Jury began deliberations Friday in false-statement case against lawyer Michael Sussmann.

politico CustomProsecutors at the trial of Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann told a jury Friday that there is “overwhelming” evidence Sussmann lied to the FBI weeks before the 2016 election in order to obscure the role of the Clinton campaign in advancing allegations that then-candidate Donald Trump had a secret computer link to a Russian bank.

During closing arguments at Sussmann’s false-statement trial, special counsel John Durham’s team ridiculed the longtime cybersecurity lawyer’s claim that he was acting independently to help the FBI when he told the bureau’s top attorney of the alleged communications between a Trump server and one for Alfa Bank, the owners of which are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The defendant knew that he had to hide his clients if there was any chance of getting his allegations into the FBI,” assistant special counsel Jonathan Algor said. “It wasn’t about national security. It was about promoting opposition research against the opposition candidate Donald Trump.”

“There are sometimes close cases,” another Durham prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, told the jury. “This is not even close to a close case.”

Sussmann’s defense insisted that the former federal prosecutor had not lied to the FBI, but that Durham’s theory was absurd given Sussmann’s extensive interactions with the FBI on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in connections with hacking of their emails.

“Mr Sussmann has HFA [Hillary for America] and DNC tattooed on his forehead. He’s dealing with them all the time,” defense attorney Sean Berkowitz told jurors. “Everybody knew who he was.”
Michael Sussmann leaves federal court

Jurors began deliberating in the case shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, but U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper said he expected no verdict will be returned before Tuesday due to holiday scheduling issues.

The two-week-long trial is the first courtroom test for Durham, who was tasked by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 with examining the origins of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Trump and Russia. Two months before the 2020 election, Barr upgraded Durham to special counsel status, which gives him greater autonomy and could complicate any effort to dismiss him.

Politico, 2016 Clinton attorney Sussmann won't testify in his own defense at trial, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case beginning Friday morning.

politico CustomDemocratic attorney Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to the FBI about his work for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has decided not to testify in his own defense at his ongoing trial on a false-statement charge.

Prosecutors from the office of special counsel John Durham have charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when he denied that he was working for the Clinton campaign when handing over to the bureau allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia. His decision not to take the stand, revealed Thursday morning in court by Sussmann’s defense team, signals that trial will imminently come to a close and could reach jurors before the week is out.

michael sussmann perkins youngerSussmann’s defense rested its case on Thursday and jurors are expected to hear closing arguments beginning Friday morning.

The decision not to have Sussmann testify in his own defense signals a degree of confidence by the defense team in its case after almost two weeks of witnesses, evidence and arguments at U.S. District Court in Washington.

If Sussmann were to take the stand, he would have opened himself to questioning by the prosecution on a series of potential weaknesses in the defense’s case. They include a text message he sent to FBI General Counsel James Baker the night before Sussmann gave Baker data and reports on an alleged link between a Trump-related email server and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the text message, which was discovered after Sussmann was indicted last year, he told Baker he was “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company.”

Both sides in the case agreed Thursday that the only issue to go to the jury will be whether Sussmann lied at the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in Baker’s office at FBI headquarters.

 

amber heard 5 5 2022 trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Heard Describes Impact of Online Attacks: ‘I’m a Human Being,’ Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Heard, who is being sued by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for defamation, said the mockery of her previous testimony on social media had been “agonizing.”

One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.

“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”

Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.

She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.

 Washington Post, Depp-Heard trial returns to the much-discussed severed finger

Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

Orlando Sentinel, Chair's arrest on 'ghost' candidate probe shines harsh spotlight on Seminole County, Annie Martin, May 29, 2022. The chair of the Seminole County Republican Party was arrested in connection to an election fraud scheme involving fake candidates,

Pro Publica, Alaska Charges Former Acting Attorney General With Sexual Abuse of a Minor, Kyle Hopkins (Anchorage Daily News), May 27, 2022. Ed Sniffen faces three counts of sexual abuse of a minor for having sex with a 17-year-old girl he coached in high school in 1991.

pro publica logoThis article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with the Anchorage Daily News. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published.

A special prosecutor has charged Alaska’s former acting attorney general with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor for having sex with a 17-year-old girl he coached on a high school mock trial team in May 1991.

The charges were filed Friday in Alaska state court in Anchorage against Clyde “Ed” Sniffen, who served as acting attorney general from August 2020 to January 2021. Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked the Department of Law to appoint an independent investigator to review the case after the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica first reported in January 2021 that a woman had accused Sniffen of sexual misconduct.

Fact-based, independent journalism is needed now more than ever.
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Sniffen resigned as the newsrooms were preparing the article. In his resignation letter, Sniffen wrote that he had decided to step aside “after discussions with family, and for personal reasons.” Sniffen’s attorney declined comment and said he would not make his client available for an interview.

Dunleavy had appointed Sniffen as his permanent attorney general, subject to confirmation by the Legislature, days before his resignation. At that time, the governor said Sniffen “has a long and proven record of leadership within the Department of Law and I am proud to appoint him to serve as our state’s next Attorney General.”

Sniffen replaced former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who resigned after the Daily News and ProPublica reported he had sent hundreds of questionable texts to a female colleague. In his resignation letter, Clarkson wrote, “I regret that my actions and errors in judgment in interacting with a state employee have become a distraction to the good work and good people working in the state’s and your service.”
Former Acting Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen Credit: National Association of Attorneys General

Nikki Dougherty White, now 48, told the news organizations that Sniffen first had sex with her during a mock trial team competition in New Orleans and continued their sexual relationship upon returning to Anchorage. Those allegations form the basis for the felony charges filed Friday.

White had come forward publicly for the first time after learning that Sniffen had been appointed attorney general.A Republican Tried to Introduce a Commonsense Gun Law. Then the Gun Lobby Got Involved.

Pro Publica, After a sheriff’s deputy was murdered in a Denver suburb, Colorado state Rep. Cole Wist took action by sponsoring a red flag bill. It likely cost him his seat, Megan O’Matz, May 27, 2022. ProPublica spoke to Wist about the harsh realities of gun reform.

pro publica logoWist was a Republican state House member in Colorado with an A grade from the NRA. Then, in 2018, he supported a red flag law, sponsoring a bill to allow guns to be taken away — temporarily — from people who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others.

Wist lost his seat in the legislature that year in the face of an intense backlash from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun rights organization in Colorado that boasts it accepts “no compromise” as it battles “the gun grabbers.” The group campaigned against him, distributing flyers and referring to him on social media as “Cole the Mole.”

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Wist, an attorney, doesn’t regret trying to enact what he considered a measured response to an epidemic of gun violence in the United States. He acted after a mentally ill man in his Denver suburb killed a sheriff’s deputy. The bill didn’t pass until after Wist was out of office and his successor, Tom Sullivan, shepherded it through. Sullivan is a Democrat who lost his son in the Aurora theater massacre.

Wist left the Republican Party this year, citing the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as the reason, and is now unaffiliated with any political party. Days after the slaughter of 19 children and 2 adults in an elementary school in Texas, ProPublica talked to Wist about the challenges ahead as proponents once again work to enact gun reforms.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid was vanishing last Memorial Day. Cases are five times higher now, Fenit Nirappil, Craig Pittman and Maureen O'Hagan, May 29, 2022. Covid-weary Americans enter summer with little effort to contain a still-raging pandemic.

For the third year, Americans are greeting the unofficial start of summer shadowed by the specter of the coronavirus amid rising covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.

The United States is recording more than 100,000 infections a day — at least five times higher than this point last year — as it confronts the most transmissible versions of the virus yet. Immunity built up as a result of the record winter outbreak appears to provide little protection against the latest variants, new research shows. And public health authorities are bracing for Memorial Day gatherings to fuel another bump in cases, potentially seeding a summer surge.

It’s a far cry from a year ago, with predictions of a “hot vax summer” uninhibited by covid concerns. Back then, coronavirus seemed to teeter on the brink of defeat as cases plummeted to their lowest levels since spring 2020 and vaccines became widely available for adults. Even the vaccinated and boosted now grudgingly accept the virus as a formidable foe that’s here to stay as governments abandon measures to contain it.

Americans emerged from isolation last Memorial Day: 'Like the end of Prohibition'

As the virus morphs and the scientific understanding of how it operates shifts with each variant, Americans are drawing their own lines for what they feel comfortable doing.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 29, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 531,477,115, Deaths: 6,310,628
U.S. Cases:      85,711,442, Deaths: 1,031,259
Indian Cases:   43,153,043, Deaths:    524,586
Brazil Cases:    30,976,406, Deaths:    666,435

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Climate, Environment

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Another monster hurricane season looms as we dawdle on climate change, Editorial Board, May 29, 2022. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast that the coming hurricane season will see 14 to 21 named storms — and three to six Category 3 or above. This would be yet another in a series of abnormal seasons.

Scientists are only just coming to grips with the monster storm seasons of the recent past. The 2020 one brought a record 30 named storms to the North Atlantic, including 12 that hit the United States, causing some $40 billion in damage. A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications finds that climate change made these storms far worse than they would have been without human-caused global warming.

Predicting climate change’s effects on hurricanes has long been controversial. It is unclear, for example, just how rising world temperatures might alter the frequency of these battering storms, a fact that deniers of climate change often cite in their effort to play down its risks. But there is increasingly little doubt that human-caused warming is heating ocean-surface temperatures, which fuel big storms. The result appears to be stronger hurricanes.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Forest Service’s Planned Burn Caused Largest New Mexico Wildfire, Amanda Holpuch, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, which merged, started as prescribed burns intended to prevent wildfires, federal officials said.

A wildfire in northern New Mexico that destroyed at least 330 homes and displaced thousands of people was caused by a planned burn by the U.S. Forest Service, federal fire investigators said on Friday.

The Calf Canyon fire escaped containment lines and merged with the Hermits Peak fire, which was also caused by an out-of-control planned burn, to form the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history.

The combined Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire has burned more than 312,000 acres, threatening remote mountain villages and forcing thousands to evacuate, sometimes repeatedly, over the past two months.

The fire was 47 percent contained as of Friday morning, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said. It warned that the Memorial Day holiday weekend could pose more challenges for firefighters because of increased traffic and recreational activities that could cause fires in the dry, hot weather. Fire officials cautioned about the use of, among other things, campfires and wood stoves.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tropical Storm Agatha Moves Toward Mexican Coast, Alex Traub, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). This year’s first named storm in the eastern Pacific has the potential to become a Category 2 hurricane, forecasters said on Saturday.

Tropical Storm Agatha, the first named storm this year in the eastern Pacific, is hurtling toward the Mexican coast and has the potential to become a hurricane, triggering life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

Agatha could make landfall on Monday as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Hurricane Center, said on Saturday.

Agatha was headed toward the largely rural Mexican state of Oaxaca and was expected to dissipate Wednesday morning. A hurricane watch was posted for the southern coast of Mexico, from Salina Cruz to Punta Maldonado.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, What Lia Thomas Could Mean for Women’s Elite Sports, Michael Powell, May 29, 2022. Although the number of top transgender athletes is small, the disagreements are profound, cutting to the core of the debate around gender identity and biological sex.

The women on the Princeton University swim team spoke of collective frustration edging into anger. They had watched Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, win meet after meet, beating Olympians and breaking records.

On Jan. 9, the team met with Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League athletic conference.

The swimmers, several of whom described the private meeting on condition of anonymity, detailed the biological advantages possessed by transgender female athletes. To ignore these, they said, “was to undermine a half-century fight for female equality in sport.”

Ms. Harris had already declared her support for transgender athletes and denounced transphobia. In an interview, she said that she had replied that she would not change rules in midseason. “Somehow,” a swimmer recalled, “the question of women in sport has become a culture war.”

The battle over whether to let female transgender athletes compete in women’s elite sports has reached an angry pitch, a collision of competing principles: The hard-fought-for right of women to compete in high school, college and pro sports versus a swelling movement to allow transgender athletes to compete in their chosen gender identities.

Heavy.com, NBA Acknowledges Incorrect Calls Made in Game 6 of Celtics-Heat, Matthew John, Updated May 28, 2022. The NBA released the nba logoLast Two Minute Report of Game 6 between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat on May 28, 2022. In the report, the NBA acknowledged that there were six calls that were either incorrect no-calls or incorrect calls that occurred during the last two minutes of the game. Four of these incorrect rulings went against the Celtics.

The first of these rulings came at the one-minute, 51.5-second mark where the league said that Bam Adebayo should have been called for defensive three seconds. While getting a technical free throw would have helped the Celtics cut into the Heat’s three-point lead, if Bam had been called for it, it would have negated PJ Tucker’s clean strip of Jayson Tatum that gave the ball back to Miami.

The first of these rulings came at the one-minute, 51.5-second mark where the league said that Bam Adebayo should have been called for defensive three seconds. While getting a technical free throw would have helped the Celtics cut into the Heat’s three-point lead, if Bam had been called for it, it would have negated PJ Tucker’s clean strip of Jayson Tatum that gave the ball back to Miami.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 28

Top Headlines

 

uvalde victims

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


Top Stories

uvalde victims 

washington post logoWashington Post, Uvalde mourns as demands for accountability intensify, Teo Armus, Robert Barnes, Yeganeh Torbati and Seung Min Kim, May 28, 2022. Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead as troubling accounts of law enforcement’s delayed response to the shooting emerged.

Grieving parents and loved ones began making plans to bury the dead, while demands for accountability increased Saturday after officials acknowledged law enforcement officers improperly waited an excruciatingly long time before rushing the classroom where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

Rogelio M. Muñoz, a former city council member who left the panel because of term limits, said in an interview Saturday morning that what the community had learned so far about the police response is “very concerning.”

Texas authorities made clear on Friday that many things went wrong earlier in the week. Muñoz criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety for its shifting accounts of what occurred at the school on Tuesday, but he cautioned against drawing too many conclusions.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, said, “We’re all angry. Law enforcement’s angry,” during an interview with CNN on Saturday morning. He said he spoke on Saturday with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and that the two men cried together.

The latest official — and troubling — accounts of how that day unfolded have come from McCraw. He confirmed that officers waited for nearly an hour in a hallway outside the locked classroom, where authorities say Salvador Rolando Ramos was shooting children and killing their teachers.

McCraw said local authorities had incorrectly concluded that the gunman was no longer an active shooter and that no more children were at risk. But children inside the room repeatedly called 911 pleading for help, McCraw said.

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for New York Times).

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, Police made ‘wrong decision’ not to pursue Uvalde gunman, official says, Teo Armus, Mark Berman and Tim Craig, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). Gunman later emerged from closet firing at Border Patrol agents, official says, Law enforcement officials have faced swelling outrage over how they handled the tragedy. Police slow to engage because ‘they could’ve been shot,’ official says; Timeline: How police responded to the Texas school shooter.

Police responding to a gunman at an elementary school here made the calamitous choice not to pursue him into a classroom where students were trapped, some officers even waiting outside in a hallway while panicked children inside repeatedly called 911 pleading for help, a top Texas official said Friday.

The commander of the law enforcement response during Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School had incorrectly determined that the gunman was no longer an active shooter and that no more children were at risk, said Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“It was the wrong decision,” McCraw said during a news briefing. “Period.”

McCraw delivered his sometimes emotional remarks while standing in front of the school where 19 students and two teachers were slaughtered on Tuesday, offering the most detailed account yet from law enforcement officials about their actions and decisions during the carnage. Authorities say officers breached the classroom and killed the gunman — whom they identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos — more than an hour after he first entered the school.

washington post logoWashington Post, Students’ 911 calls shed light on agonizing wait, Teo Armus, Timothy Bella and Kim Bellware, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). As police officers stood outside a locked fourth-grade classroom, a student trapped inside with the man shooting at her classmates dialed 911.

She was in Room 112, she whispered to the dispatcher. Seven minutes later, she called again. There were multiple students dead, she said. The child hung up and called several more times, her words growing increasingly desperate and grim.

“Please send police now,” she said in one of the final 911 recordings investigators disclosed Friday — over 40 minutes after her initial call.

The harrowing calls from Uvalde, Tex., came to light as Texas Department of Public Safety officials acknowledged grave missteps in the police response to the worst mass shooting at an American school in nearly a decade. While two students were inside, calling 911, an on-scene commander made the decision not to rush in after determining that the scene had shifted from an active shooting to a barricaded gunman ordeal, DPS Director Steven C. McCraw said at a news conference.

The police response to the Texas school massacre was led by the chief of a six-officer police department that oversees about eight schools. The first officers on the scene were from the Uvalde city police force, which has a part-time SWAT team and about 40 officers on the payroll.

Policing experts said it makes sense that the school police chief was in charge, given that it was his campus and he knows the safety protocols.

But authorities made clear Friday that many other things went wrong as those small police departments were joined by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in the town of 16,000. Officers waited nearly an hour inside Robb Elementary School before a group stormed into the classroom and confronted 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos. At that point, police say, officers with Customs and Border Protection shot and killed the gunman, who had slain 19 children and two teachers and wounded 17 others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tiny police force took charge, then failed to go in, Steve Thompson, Robert Klemko and Silvia Foster-Frau, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). After praising police, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott now says he is seeking a full investigation of response to massacre.

  • Washington Post, As bullets ricocheted around him, a Texas student found safety in silence, Tim Craig, May 27, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s not so easy to be a hero, David Von Drehle, May 28, 2022 (print ed.).  “We don’t need another hero,” sang the great Tina Turner in a megahit from 1985. But we could have used one on Tuesday in Uvalde, Tex.

I say this as an ordinary person whose courage under fire has never been tested and — I fervently hope — never will be. I am in no position to judge the law enforcement officers who stood outside an elementary school while a killer was inside for over an hour.
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Still, it’s important to look unsentimentally at the timid response in Uvalde, which was not so different from the police response at Columbine High School in 1999, or at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, or at any number of chaotic and dangerous scenes created by murderous narcissists who write their pain in the blood of innocents.

The brand of heroism that enables someone to advance on a gunman is more rare than Hollywood would have us believe. Military historian John Keegan, in his 1978 masterpiece “The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme,” explored the often decisive element of fear in warfare — a topic frequently hushed up. “The majority” of soldiers “are unwilling to take extraordinary risks and do not aspire to a hero’s role,” he wrote. This would not have been news to Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson of the Union Army at the Battle of

washington post logoWashington Post, The tools that can help prevent shootings, according to experts and educators, Laura Meckler, May 28, 2022. When Curtis Lavarello walks through the vendor hall at the huge school safety conference his organization sponsors this July, he will stop and marvel at just how useless some of the technology being marketed to schools is.

It won’t help prevent a shooting, he said, and could even hurt.

He cited a $400,000 system that fills hallways with smoke in hopes of stopping a shooter, noting that this same smoke would also obstruct law enforcement trying to intervene and children trying to escape.

“You’re going to see bizarre things you would never want to see in your child’s school,” said Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council.

Experts call it “school security theater" — the idea that if a school system buys enough technology or infrastructure, it can keep its children safe from the horrors of a gunman.

In reality, many say, strong relationships between students and staff and robust staff training to influence what may seem like small decisions by school personnel may be at least as important, if not far more.

Billions are being spent to protect children from school shootings. Does any of it work?

In the aftermath of another school shooting, school leaders, teachers, parents and others are debating, yet again, how the next one might be prevented. The national debate revolves around policy decisions: Should gun sales be restricted? Should teachers be armed?

For school systems, though, the questions often come down to what to buy, who to hire and how to prepare their staffs.

One security measure that enjoys broad consensus is keeping all external school doors locked, and forcing visitors to enter schools through a single entry point. This is a low-hanging-fruit solution that many districts have adopted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Before massacre, Uvalde gunman threatened online to kidnap, rape teen girls, Silvia Foster-Frau, Cat Zakrzewski, Naomi Nix and Drew Harwell, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). Young people who met the alleged gunman online said he had threatened to kidnap, rape or kill. But they said their reports were ignored and that his kind of angry misogyny was just “how online is.”

He could be cryptic, demeaning and scary, sending angry messages and photos of guns. If they didn’t respond how he wanted, he sometimes threatened to rape or kidnap them — then laughed it off as some big joke.

But the girls and young women who talked with Salvador Ramos online in the months before he allegedly killed 19 children in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, rarely reported him. His threats seemed too vague, several said in interviews with The Washington Post. One teen who reported Ramos on the social app Yubo said nothing happened as a result.

Gunman bought two rifles, hundreds of rounds in days before massacre

Some also suspected this was just how teen boys talked on the Internet these days — a blend of rage and misogyny so predictable they could barely tell each one apart. One girl, discussing moments when he had been creepy and threatening, said that was just “how online is.”

In the aftermath of the deadliest school shooting in a decade, many have asked what more could have been done — how an 18-year-old who spewed so much hate to so many on the Web could do so without provoking punishment or raising alarm.

But these threats hadn’t been discovered by parents, friends or teachers. They’d been seen by strangers, many of whom had never met him and had found him only through the social messaging and video apps that form the bedrock of modern teen life.

The Washington Post reviewed videos, posts and text messages sent by Ramos and spoke with four young people who’d talked with him online, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of further harassment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s school shooting response under scrutiny, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). The Republican, who has been highly visible since the massacre, faces growing criticism as law enforcement’s story has fallen apart.

One day after an elementary school shooter killed 21 people in a small Texas town this week, Gov. Greg Abbott appeared before a grieving nation to explain how it happened, delivering an authoritative account of law enforcement heroes facing down evil and preventing the additional loss of life with quick action.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Zelensky defiant despite Donbas setbacks, possible retreat from Severodonetsk, Julian Duplain, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset and Andrew Jeong, May 28, 2022. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday its forces now control Lyman, a key transport hub providing access to bridges over the Siversky Donets river, and the British Defense Ministry said most of the town has probably fallen into Russian hands.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sounded a defiant note on Friday, saying: “If the occupiers think that Lyman or Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong.”

Russia is also trying to encircle the eastern city of Severodonetsk, but the regional governor said Saturday that the city has not been cut off. The Pentagon described the city as “still being actively fought over,” and compared the Donbas clashes to a “knife fight” where control of territory has been shifting rapidly.

Russian forces in the occupied southern Kherson region have closed the borders to Ukrainian-held territory, Russian state media said Saturday. The regional capital, also called Kherson, was the first major city to fall to Russia following the Feb. 24 invasion.

Here’s what else to know

  • Disapproval of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is increasingly bubbling to the surface in Russia — from hawks demanding a more aggressive policy to officials and service members who want no part of the bloodshed.
  • Efforts to document war crimes committed during the conflict are hurtling ahead. But the array of investigations — involving more than a dozen countries and a slew of international and human rights organizations — has raised concerns about duplication and overlap.
  • Russia is responsible for inciting genocide and perpetrating atrocities that show an “intent to destroy” the Ukrainian people, a new legal analysis signed by more than 30 independent experts concluded.

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. won’t charge FBI agents accused of botching Larry Nassar case, Devlin Barrett, May 26, 2022. Two former FBI agents accused of mishandling sex-abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (shown below in court with an attorney) will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

In a statement, officials said that after a “careful re-review of evidence,” the department “is adhering to its prior decision not to bring federal criminal charges,” adding: “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”

FBI logoJohn Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the decision “incomprehensible” and said the FBI agents “violated their oaths of office and colluded in the cover up of the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.” He said the timing of the announcement — shortly before a holiday weekend, and during coverage of a school shooting — “is one more cynical attempt by the [Justice Department] to cover up FBI complicity” in the Nassar scandal.

The decision marks the third time that federal prosecutors examined whether a senior FBI official and a case agent should be charged with lying about their work on the Nassar case. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco opened the review after several world-famous gymnasts in September gave tearful testimony to Congress, describing in horrifying detail the abuse they endured and their incredulity over the FBI’s decision not to further investigate Nassar after the allegations against him first surfaced.

Monaco, in announcing the review, said officials would look again at the issue because new evidence had surfaced. Though she did not specify what that evidence was, lawmakers have sharply criticized the Justice Department for not pursuing charges after the agency’s inspector general concluded a supervisory agent and his boss lied to internal investigators in a bid to cover up their failures.

It is rare for the Justice Department even to consider reopening a case that was closed without charges. One of the Nassar agents retired years ago and the other was fired last summer in the wake of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report, which found major missteps in the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar in 2015 that allowed him to victimize more patients before he was arrested by state authorities the following year.

In its statement, the Justice Department said it will “continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” and said it wanted to work with Congress to address unspecified gaps in the law to “help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable.”

richard blumenthal portraitSens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), left, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called the decision “infuriating.” In a joint statement, they said: "FBI agents who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse, did nothing, and then lied about it will face no legal consequences for their actions. Dozens of athletes would have been spared unimaginable abuse if these agents had just done their jobs. Their actions demand accountability.”

Simone Biles, below left, and three other high-profile gymnasts (Mykala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, shown below left to right in a pool photo by Saul Loeb of AFP on Sept. 15, 2021) gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year about Nassar’s abuse and the FBI’s failure to act.

simone biles mykala maroney aly raisman maggie nichols saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21

More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child-pornography charges, and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, She’d taken one child home. The other was still at school when a gunman opened fire, Peter Jamison, May 28, 2022. A Uvalde family grapples with terror, chance and how to grieve in a shattered community.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Checking Trump and Cruz at the N.R.A. Convention, Linda Qiu, May 28, 2022. The former president and the Texas senator made inaccurate or misleading claims about the efficacy of gun restrictions, gun ownership trends and school shootings.

Prominent Republicans defended gun rights at the National Rifle Association convention on Friday with some misleading claims about the efficacy of gun restrictions, gun ownership trends and school shootings.

What Was Said

“Gun bans do not work. Look at Chicago. If they worked, Chicago wouldn’t be the murder hellhole that it has been for far too long.” — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

This is misleading. Opponents of firearm restrictions frequently cite Chicago as a case study of why tough gun laws do little to prevent homicides. This argument, however, relies on faulty assumptions about the city’s gun laws and gun violence.

There were more gun murders in Chicago than in any other U.S. city in 2020, fueling the perception that it is the gun violence capital of the country. But Chicago is also the third-largest city in the country. Adjusted by population, the gun homicide rate was 25.2 per 100,000, the 26th highest in the country in 2020, according to data compiled by the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

The three cities with the highest gun homicide rates — Jackson, Miss.; Gary, Ind.; and St. Louis — had rates double that of Chicago’s or more. All are in states with more permissive gun laws than Illinois.

Chicago’s reputation for having the strictest gun control measures in the country is outdated. Mr. Cruz cited the city’s handgun ban — without noting that the Supreme Court nullified the ban in 2010. An appeals court also struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois in 2012, and the state began allowing possession of concealed guns in 2013 as part of the court decision.

Today, Illinois has tougher restrictions than most states, but it does not lead the pack, ranking No. 6 in Everytown’s assessment of the strength of state gun control laws, and No. 8 in a report card released by the Giffords Law Center, another gun control group. Conversely, the state ranked No. 41 in an assessment on gun rights from the libertarian Cato Institute.

Gun control proponents have also argued that the patchwork nature of gun laws in the country makes it difficult for a state like Illinois with tough restrictions on the books to enforce them in practice. A 2017 study commissioned by the city of Chicago found, for example, that 60 percent of guns used in crimes and recovered in Chicago came from out of state, with neighboring Indiana as the primary source.

What Was Said

“As for so-called assault rifles, which the left and the media love to demonize, these guns were banned for 10 years from 1994 to 2004. And the Department of Justice examined the effect of the ban and concluded it had zero statistically significant effect on violent crime.” — Mr. Cruz

This is exaggerated. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 banned the possession, transfer or domestic manufacturing of some semiautomatic assault weapons for 10 years. The Justice Department commissioned a 2004 study on the effect of the 1994 assault weapons ban.

The study found that, if renewed, “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement” as assault weapons were rarely used in the crimes.

But Christopher Koper, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., and the lead author of that study., has repeatedly said that the ban had mixed effects overall.

“My work is often cited in misleading ways that don’t give the full picture,” Mr. Koper previously told The New York Times. “These laws can modestly reduce shootings overall” and reduce the number and severity of mass shootings.

What Was Said

“We know that there are no more guns per capita in this nation today than there were 50 or 100 years ago. That’s worth underscoring. In 1972, the rate of per capita gun ownership in the United States was 43 percent. In 2021, the rate is 42 percent. The rate of gun ownership hasn’t changed. And yet acts of evil like we saw this week are on the rise.” — Mr. Cruz

This is misleading. In arguing that cultural issues, rather than the prevalence of guns, are to blame for mass shootings, Mr. Cruz conflated and distorted metrics of gun ownership.

The per capita number of guns in the United States roughly doubled from 1968 to 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service, from one gun for every two people to one gun per person. And it has continued to rise since, to about 1.2 guns for every person by 2018, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.

washington post logoWashington Post, As new timeline emerges, police criticized for response, Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gunman was inside school for an hour before police killed him, officials say. Texas authorities on Thursday contradicted previous statements about how police confronted and killed the gunman.Everyone was being told to stand back.

Desperate parents gathering outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., were ordered by police to move away as they begged officers in tactical gear to go inside after a gunman. Some tried to rush in themselves; one man was pinned to the ground by officers, video recorded at the scene shows, and a witness told The Washington Post that a woman was handcuffed.

In bursts of chatter on an open radio channel on Tuesday, local ambulance drivers were directed to reports of injuries at a dangerous situation at the school, but cautioned to give law enforcement space to do their job. “Please, just stay back,” a voice told them. “I’ll call you guys up one at a time if we need you.”

But even as police from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, an hour passed before a heavily armed tactical team entered a 4th grade classroom and killed 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, according to video and information provided for the first time Thursday by public officials. By then, the gunman had fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others — America’s deadliest school massacre in almost a decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Details of Massacre Emerge as Families Grieve, Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The police released nra logo Customdetails about the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, but questions remained about the gunman’s actions and his motive.

Families in the tight-knit town continued to mourn their lost children on what would have been the last day of classes before summer break. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Days After Massacre at Uvalde School, N.R.A. Gathers in Texas, Glenn Thrush, May 27, 2022. Former President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are expected to speak at an annual National Rifle Association convention in Houston today.

The governor of Texas won’t appear in person at the N.R.A.’s convention.  In Uvalde, Texas, grief after the deadly school shooting has mixed with a sense of deep unease about a police response that many parents say was sluggish and ineffective. In Washington, Republicans in the Senate expressed a willingness to negotiate a long-shot bipartisan gun deal on a modest expansion of background checks.

But Houston is also likely to be closely watched over the weekend as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention begins there on Friday.

In years past, the conclave has taken on the tenor of a gun-rights rally. This one was planned months ago, but its timing puts it in the spotlight. Follow updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, Hannah Thacker, John Muyskens and Monica Ulmanu, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.

The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.

Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized.

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day.

The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever, Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The organization is embroiled in lawsuits and infighting. Nevertheless, the potency of gun rights as a motivating issue for Republican voters and politicians has only intensified.

nra logo CustomNearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hard-line messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and that all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless. The NRA, which will host former president Donald Trump at its annual convention Friday in Houston, has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz storms off after being asked why mass shootings happen ‘only in America,’ Timothy Bella, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, In first test after Uvalde, Senate GOP blocks domestic terror bill, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The White House announced that President Biden will travel to Uvalde, Tex., with the first lady Sunday to meet and grieve with the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting there. More details on the travel are to come. The president has no public events on his schedule Thursday.

The White House also announced Thursday that the superstar K-pop group BTS will join Biden at the White House next week to help put a spotlight on anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which became more prevalent starting early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, before leaving town for a Memorial Day recess, Senate Republicans blocked legislation intended to combat domestic terrorism. Democrats pitched the bill as Congress’s first opportunity to pass legislation responding to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo. Republicans argued that the bill, which would set up domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, was unnecessary and that Democrats are trying to score political points.

washington post logoWashington Post, They played basketball and soccer. They made honor roll. They danced with their siblings, Staff Report, May 26, 2022. The fourth-graders were 9 and 10 years old. They were preparing for summer break. Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Carnage Occurred in Single Classroom at Texas School, Edgar Sandoval, Julie Bosman, J. David Goodman and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Chilling Details Emerge in Killing of 19 Children and 2 Teachers. All of the school’s dead and injured were in one classroom, an official said. The gunman, who attended school nearby, also died. Here’s the latest.

Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail on Wednesday how an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother and left her wounded at her home, drove a pickup truck that crashed at a high speed by an elementary school less than a half mile away and exchanged shots with police officers on the scene who were unable to stop him before he killed 19 children and two teachers in a massacre in a single classroom.

According to preliminary investigatory documents described by a state police official, the gunman, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, used a rifle in the killings on Tuesday, and a second, similar weapon was left in the truck outside. Mr. Ramos purchased both guns within the last week, just after his 18th birthday, the official said.

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Seizes 2 Greek Tankers in the Persian Gulf, Farnaz Fassihi, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). The ships were taken in retaliation for Greece last month impounding, at the request of the United States, an Iranian oil tanker, according to Iranian news reports.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Friday that its naval forces in the Persian Gulf had seized two oil tankers belonging to Greece, escalating tensions between Iran and the West at a time when diplomatic efforts to revive the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program have stalled.

The two ships were seized in retaliation for Greece impounding an oil tanker in April carrying Iranian oil near its shore, with the seizure carried out at the request of the United States, according to reports in two semiofficial Iranian news agencies, Tasnim and Fars News, which are affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

The cargo of Iranian oil was then handed over to the United States for being in violation of American sanctions that ban Iran from selling its oil, according to Iranian news media, a claim that could not be independently verified.

According to The Associated Press, citing an anonymous Greek official, U.S. authorities had made a formal request that the ship’s cargo be seized and that Greece hand over the oil at one of its ports.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s grain blockade may require U.S. intervention, general suggests, Karoun Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Western officials accused Moscow of using food as a form of blackmail.

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo).

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

Israel FlagThe Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lebanese spy chief says U.S. wants his help to free Americans in Syria, Sarah Dadouch, Kareem Fahim and Suzan Haidamous, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Lebanon’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he met with Biden administration officials this week to discuss ways he could help secure the release of six Americans who are being held prisoner or are missing in Syria, including Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributed to The Washington Post.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the Lebanese General Security Directorate, said in an interview that he received an invitation to the White House earlier this month to discuss the missing Americans. The invitation came a few days after President Biden met with Tice’s parents.

Ibrahim, who has helped to secure the release of several hostages in the Middle East over the past decade, has for years been involved in the effort to locate Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, as well as other missing Americans. “They wanted me to resume my effort to solve this problem,” he said, referring to his meetings this week with White House officials. “They wanted their people back, and this is their goal.”

Syria releases U.S. citizen captured while trying to visit every country in the world

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday confirmed that Ibrahim met with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “We are not going to comment on the specifics of those discussions beyond restating the fact that we have no higher priority than seeing the safe release of Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage anywhere around the world,” Price said during a news briefing.

“Of course, we talked about the case of Austin Tice yesterday, an American who has been — who has been separated from his family for nearly 10 years, who has spent a quarter of his life separated from his family,” Price said. “He is always top of mind. The other Americans who are detained in places like Iran and Russia and Afghanistan and Venezuela and elsewhere are always top of mind for us too.”

Tice disappeared when he attempted to leave the rebel-held town of Darayya, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Darayya was surrounded by government troops at the time. His family members have repeatedly said they are confident that he is alive. Syria has not publicly acknowledged holding Tice or the other Americans, including Majd Kamalmaz, a psychotherapist who went missing in 2017, and four other U.S. citizens whose families do not want publicity.

Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, on May 2, and “reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin’s long overdue return to his family,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement at the time.

 Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Drones. Crutches. Potatoes. Russian People Crowdfund Their Army, Anton Troianovski, May 28, 2022. A grass-roots movement to get basic supplies to soldiers fighting in Ukraine reflects the growing recognition among Russians that their military was unprepared.

Natalia Abiyeva is a real-estate agent specializing in rental apartments in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow. But lately, she has been learning a lot about battlefield medicine.

Packets of hemostatic granules, she found out, can stop catastrophic bleeding; decompression needles can relieve pressure in a punctured chest. At a military hospital, a wounded commander told her that a comrade died in his arms because there were no airway tubes available to keep him breathing.

Ms. Abiyeva, 37, has decided to take matters into her own hands. On Wednesday, she and two friends set out in a van for the Ukrainian border for the seventh time since the war began in February, bringing onions, potatoes, two-way radios, binoculars, first-aid gear and even a mobile dentistry set. Since the start of the war, she said, she has raised more than $60,000 to buy food, clothes and equipment for Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine.

“The whole world, it seems to me, is supporting our great enemies,” Ms. Abiyeva said in a phone interview. “We also want to offer our support, to say, ‘Guys, we’re with you.’”

Across Russia, grass-roots movements, led in large part by women, have sprung up to crowdsource aid for Russian soldiers. They are evidence of some public backing for President Vladimir V. Putin’s war effort — but also of the growing recognition among Russians that their military, vaunted before the invasion as a world-class fighting force, turned out to be woefully underprepared for a major conflict.

The aid often includes sweets and inspirational messages, but it goes far beyond the care packages familiar to Americans from the Iraq war. The most sought-after items include imported drones and night vision scopes, a sign that Russia’s $66 billion defense budget has not managed to produce essential gear for modern warfare.

“No one expected there to be such a war,” Tatyana Plotnikova, a business owner in the city of Novokuybyshevsk on the Volga, said in a phone interview. “I think no one was ready for this.”

Ms. Plotnikova, 47, has already made the 1,000-mile drive to the Ukrainian border twice, ferrying a total of three tons of aid, she says. Last week, she posted a new list of urgently needed items on her page on VKontakte, the Russian social network: bandages, anesthetics, antibiotics, crutches and wheelchairs.

Medical gear is in high demand in part because of the growing firepower of Ukraine’s military as the West increasingly fortifies it with powerful weapons. Aleksandr Borodai, a separatist commander and a member of the Russian Parliament, said in a phone interview that materials to treat shrapnel wounds and burns were needed “in great quantities” on the Russian side of the front. More than 90 percent of Russian injuries in some areas, he said, have recently been caused by artillery fire.

Mr. Borodai said that his units had noted the use of 155-millimeter shells fired by American howitzers, and that Russia’s leadership may have underestimated the determination of the West to support Ukraine.

“It’s not making the military operation go any faster from our point of view — it’s making our situation more difficult, I don’t deny it,” Mr. Borodai said, referring to Western weapons deliveries. “It’s possible that our military leaders were not ready for there to be such massive support on the part of the West.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Destruction in Ukraine’s East as Civilian Toll Rises, Megan Specia, Andrew E. Kramer and Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022. As Russia made gains in eastern Ukraine, including seizing the city of Lyman, the devastation in the region has widened a civilian crisis. Here’s the latest.

Russian forces’ capturing of Lyman made it the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. As civilian deaths and suffering mounted, a new report by international legal scholars and rights experts cited a “genocidal pattern” by Russia’s military.

And the strikes continued to exact a daily toll on Friday. In Dnipro, in east-central Ukraine, an official said that at least 10 people had been killed and at least 30 injured in early morning shelling in the city. He said a missile launched from Russia’s Rostov region had hit a Ukrainian National Guard facility.

Russian and Ukrainian officials confirmed on Friday that Russian forces had captured Lyman, the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. Lyman’s fall followed intense artillery bombardments, including from one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s conventional arsenal: fuel-air bombs that set off huge, destructive shock waves. And while the weapons’ use highlighted the pyrrhic victories Russia’s military has achieved in its scaled-down objectives in Ukraine’s east, its capturing of Lyman also showed its ability to gain ground using creeping advances.

The ripple effects of the war are also reaching out much farther than Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Grain shortages prompted by Ukraine’s inability to ship out its harvests amid a Russian blockade are increasing fears of a global food crisis, and Ukrainian officials continue to raise the alarm about the harm to civilians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned in an overnight address that Russian forces were trying to turn cities and towns in the east of the country “to ashes.” With civilians also being killed at an alarming rate, he charged that the actions amounted to “an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.”

A new report from international legal scholars released on Friday echoed such claims about the war generally. It said that mass killings, deliberate attacks on shelters or evacuation routes, and the indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas by Russian forces established a “genocidal pattern” indicating an intent to wipe out a substantial part of the Ukrainian population.

In other developments:

  • Several neighborhoods in Kharkiv, the northeastern city where the Ukrainians repelled an attempted Russian encirclement in mid-May, came under fire on Thursday, with at least nine people killed. It shattered a sense of relative peace that had begun returning to the country’s second-largest city.
  • Mr. Zelensky expressed frustration that the European Union had yet to approve a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that would include an oil embargo.
  • The Biden administration said it expected Russia to default on its bond payments to U.S. investors now that the Treasury Department has allowed to lapse a sanctions exemption that permitted Russia to make those payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia Struggles to Stave Off a Return to Soviet-Era Scarcity, Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The economic cost of the invasion of Ukraine could eventually alter President Vladimir Putin’s calculus. In aviation, a lack of crucial parts could ground much of the country’s fleet and make flying a game of ‘Russian roulette.’

Stung by Western sanctions, Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes, where shortages are stirring memories of the consumer wasteland that was the Soviet Union.

While it may be able to find new purveyors for some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India, Russia is increasingly determined to make its own — returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Already, Moscow is facing serious challenges.

Unable to secure spare parts from Western airplane manufacturers, for instance, the Russian aviation sector is facing a crisis. About 80 percent of Russia’s commercial fleet consists of foreign-made planes, predominantly from Airbus and Boeing, both of which have stopped doing business with Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Law&Crime, Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering Chiropractor Who Couldn't Fix His Chronic Jaw Pain by Beating Him to Death in the Head and Jaw, Colin Kalmbacher, May 28, 2022, A Pennsylvania man on Friday pleaded guilty to beating a chiropractor to death in the head for failing to fix his chronic jaw pain.

pro publica logoJoseph O’Boyle, 22, accepted legal culpability on charges of criminal homicide, criminal trespassing, and possession of an instrument of crime over the November 2020 murder of Dr. James Sowa.

Evidence presented by prosecutors in the case suggested the defendant committed the crime in less than a minute.

Two days after Halloween in 2020, O’Boyle walked into Sowa’s residence, which doubled as the office for the doctor’s practice, and walked back out in a matter of 52 seconds, surveillance footage shows, according to law enforcement officials cited by the Courier Times.

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said the beating focused on the doctor’s head and jaw and called the method of death “poetic perverse irony,” according to Philadelphia FOX affiliate WTXF.

Court documents obtained by the aforementioned newspaper note that O’Boyle began experiencing jaw pain in April 2019. Along with the pain came some typical concomitant problems: mental health issues and depression.

In September 2020, the defendant had an appointment with Sowa for the pain. He would later complain to family members that the chiropractic treatment only seemed to make the pain worse.

O’Boyle mused about filing lawsuit. He never filed.

Instead, he visited the doctor’s home and practice and struck him on the back of the head three times with a blunt object, a grand jury would later hear. Sowa suffered two skull fractures from the initial attack. As he lay on the floor, he was hit several more times in the jaw. Six hexagonal bruises on the deceased man’s chin would attest to where the defendant focused the attack, an autopsy revealed.

Law&Crime, Ohio Man Known as ‘Uncle Ben’ Charged with 16 Counts of Child Sexual Abuse Spanning Several Years, Multiple Locations, and Numerous Children, Colin Kalmbacher, May 28, 2022. An Ohio man was arrested late last week in connection with child sexual abuse allegedly committed over several years in multiple locations. On Friday, he was indicted. And the charges are myriad.

pro publica logoJohn Benjamin Reynolds, 53, stands accused of sixteen separate counts over the allegations including four counts of rape in the first degree, nine counts of gross sexual imposition in the third degree, and three counts of gross sexual imposition in the fourth degree, according to Warren County Court records reviewed by Law&Crime.

Warren County Sheriff’s Office detectives say they were first alerted to the alleged abuse when a complaint was filed on Thursday, May 19, 2022 alleging the defendant raped a 14-year-old child at a KOA campground in Lebanon, Ohio on March 16, 2022. Investigators say they quickly ascertained two additional victims — both also under the age of 15, according to Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT.

Law&Crime, Vermont Man Who Punched Defense Attorney in the Face Later Threatened to Kill Judge and Sexually Assault Prosecutor: Feds, Aaron Keller, May 27, 2022. A Vermont man is facing federal charges for allegedly threatening to kill a state court judge and a defense attorney. The defendant is also accused of threatening to sexually assault a state prosecutor.

pro publica logoThe U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont says Joshua Puma, 35, “formerly of Chittenden County,” placed the calls to a Vermont Department of Corrections “reporting line” and that the “calls were recorded.”

Puma was incarcerated on apparently unrelated charges when he levied the threats, federal prosecutors said.

“Puma specifically stated that when he is released from jail, he will use violence and kill and maim those state officials, in addition to harming and killing other members of the legal community,” prosecutors said in a press release. “Puma was recently ordered hospitalized by the state court due to mental health considerations.”

Because of the calls, Puma was charged with three counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce to injure the person of another. He pleaded not guilty before a magistrate judge in Rutland.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fall of the ‘Sun King’ of French TV, and the Myth of Seduction, Norimitsu Onishi, May 28, 2022. Patrick Poivre d’Arvor has been accused by more than 20 women of rape, sexual assault and harassment in France’s belated #MeToo reckoning.

France’s most trusted anchorman for decades, he used to draw millions in an evening news program that some likened to a religious communion. In an earlier time, he embodied an ideal of the French male — at ease with himself, a TV journalist and man of letters, a husband and a father who was also, unabashedly, a great seducer of women.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, nicknamed the Sun King of French TV, seemed so confident of his reputation that last month he sued for defamation 16 women who had accused him of rape, sexual assault and harassment, saying that they were simply “jilted” and “bitter.”

Angered, nearly 20 women appeared together this month in a TV studio for Mediapart, France’s leading investigative news site, with some recounting rapes or assaults that lasted minutes, carried out with barely a few words.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fraternity Brothers Acquitted on Most Serious Charges in Student’s Death, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Vimal Patel, May 28, 2022 (print ed.). The two men were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in the death of Stone Foltz, a 20-year-old Bowling Green State University sophomore. But they were convicted of hazing and other lesser counts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Gets 15 Months in Prison for Punching Flight Attendant in the Face, Vimal Patel, May 28, 2022. Prosecutors said Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, will also have to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine for the May 2021 attack, which was widely viewed online.

A California woman who repeatedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last year, bloodying her face and chipping three of her teeth, was sentenced on Friday to 15 months in federal prison, prosecutors said.

The woman, Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, will also have to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. A video of the attack, which occurred in May 2021, was widely viewed on social media.

Judge Todd W. Robinson of United States District Court also ordered Ms. Quinonez to be on supervised release for three years after completing her sentence, during which she will be barred from flying on any commercial aircraft.

The assault came amid a surge of unruly and violent behavior by passengers who shoved, struck and yelled at flight attendants. Within days of the attack, two major airlines, American and Southwest, postponed plans to begin serving alcohol again on flights, in an effort to stop the behavior. Both airlines have since resumed alcohol sales.

In a letter dated May 18 and addressed to Judge Robinson, a Southwest representative said that the company wanted the sentence to serve as a deterrent to unruly and violent behavior. The letter said that the company’s executive team had heard from “countless flight attendants” who felt under attack during a pandemic that pushed fear around travel to an all-time high.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Illegal Immigration Is Down, Changing the Face of California Farms, Eduardo Porter, Photographs by Ryan Christopher Jones, May 28, 2022. Farmers are turning to workers on seasonal visas and mechanizing what they can. Many labor-intensive crops are shifting south of the border.

It looks like a century-old picture of farming in California: a few dozen Mexican men on their knees, plucking radishes from the ground, tying them into bundles. But the crews on Sabor Farms’ radish patch, about a mile south of the Salinas River, represent the cutting edge of change, a revolution in how America pulls food from the land.

For starters, the young men on their knees are working alongside technology unseen even 10 years ago. Crouched behind what looks like a tractor retrofitted with a packing plant, they place bunches of radishes on a conveyor belt within arm’s reach, which carries them through a cold wash and delivers them to be packed into crates and delivered for distribution in a refrigerated truck.

The other change is more subtle, but no less revolutionary. None of the workers are in the United States illegally.
Continue reading the main story

Both of these transformations are driven by the same dynamic: the decline in the supply of young illegal immigrants from Mexico, the backbone of the work force picking California’s crops since the 1960s.

The new demographic reality has sent farmers scrambling to bring in more highly paid foreign workers on temporary guest-worker visas, experiment with automation wherever they can and even replace crops with less labor-intensive alternatives.

“Back in the day, you had people galore,” said Vanessa Quinlan, director of human resources at Sabor Farms. These days, not so much: Some 90 percent of Sabor’s harvest workers come from Mexico on temporary visas, said Jess Quinlan, the farm’s president and Ms. Quinlan’s husband. “We needed to make sure we had bodies available when the crop is ready,” he said.

Politico, Prosecution: 'Overwhelming' evidence of guilt for Clinton campaign attorney, Josh Gerstein, May 27, 2022. Jury began deliberations Friday in false-statement case against lawyer Michael Sussmann.

politico CustomProsecutors at the trial of Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann told a jury Friday that there is “overwhelming” evidence Sussmann lied to the FBI weeks before the 2016 election in order to obscure the role of the Clinton campaign in advancing allegations that then-candidate Donald Trump had a secret computer link to a Russian bank.

During closing arguments at Sussmann’s false-statement trial, special counsel John Durham’s team ridiculed the longtime cybersecurity lawyer’s claim that he was acting independently to help the FBI when he told the bureau’s top attorney of the alleged communications between a Trump server and one for Alfa Bank, the owners of which are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The defendant knew that he had to hide his clients if there was any chance of getting his allegations into the FBI,” assistant special counsel Jonathan Algor said. “It wasn’t about national security. It was about promoting opposition research against the opposition candidate Donald Trump.”

“There are sometimes close cases,” another Durham prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, told the jury. “This is not even close to a close case.”

Sussmann’s defense insisted that the former federal prosecutor had not lied to the FBI, but that Durham’s theory was absurd given Sussmann’s extensive interactions with the FBI on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in connections with hacking of their emails.

“Mr Sussmann has HFA [Hillary for America] and DNC tattooed on his forehead. He’s dealing with them all the time,” defense attorney Sean Berkowitz told jurors. “Everybody knew who he was.”
Michael Sussmann leaves federal court

Jurors began deliberating in the case shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, but U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper said he expected no verdict will be returned before Tuesday due to holiday scheduling issues.

The two-week-long trial is the first courtroom test for Durham, who was tasked by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 with examining the origins of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Trump and Russia. Two months before the 2020 election, Barr upgraded Durham to special counsel status, which gives him greater autonomy and could complicate any effort to dismiss him.

Politico, 2016 Clinton attorney Sussmann won't testify in his own defense at trial, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case beginning Friday morning.

politico CustomDemocratic attorney Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to the FBI about his work for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has decided not to testify in his own defense at his ongoing trial on a false-statement charge.

Prosecutors from the office of special counsel John Durham have charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when he denied that he was working for the Clinton campaign when handing over to the bureau allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia. His decision not to take the stand, revealed Thursday morning in court by Sussmann’s defense team, signals that trial will imminently come to a close and could reach jurors before the week is out.

michael sussmann perkins youngerSussmann’s defense rested its case on Thursday and jurors are expected to hear closing arguments beginning Friday morning.

The decision not to have Sussmann testify in his own defense signals a degree of confidence by the defense team in its case after almost two weeks of witnesses, evidence and arguments at U.S. District Court in Washington.

If Sussmann were to take the stand, he would have opened himself to questioning by the prosecution on a series of potential weaknesses in the defense’s case. They include a text message he sent to FBI General Counsel James Baker the night before Sussmann gave Baker data and reports on an alleged link between a Trump-related email server and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the text message, which was discovered after Sussmann was indicted last year, he told Baker he was “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company.”

Both sides in the case agreed Thursday that the only issue to go to the jury will be whether Sussmann lied at the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in Baker’s office at FBI headquarters.

 

amber heard 5 5 2022 trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Heard Describes Impact of Online Attacks: ‘I’m a Human Being,’ Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Heard, who is being sued by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for defamation, said the mockery of her previous testimony on social media had been “agonizing.”

One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.

“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”

Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.

She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.

 Washington Post, Depp-Heard trial returns to the much-discussed severed finger

Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

Politico, Scoop: PAC to spend $1M to oust ‘Squad’ member Tlaib, Brakkton Booker, May 27, 2022. Today we have a scoop about a liberal-leaning new PAC planning to spend big to take out “Squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

A new PAC endorsed by Bakari Sellers says it’s going to spend upward of $1 million to support one of the candidates trying to unseat progressive firebrand Rashida Tlaib.

politico CustomThe stated mission of the group, Urban Empowerment Action PAC, is to back candidates who are “dedicated to the educational empowerment and economic uplift of Black communities,” according to a release first shared with POLITICO’s The Recast. The PAC adds that its support of Janice Winfrey, the Detroit City Clerk, is meant to boost “her campaign to restore infrastructure, improve educational opportunities in the district and support the Biden-Harris agenda in D.C.”

The group is made up of a coalition of Black and Jewish business leaders.

For her part, Tlaib has been unequivocal in her disdain for Israel and its treatment of Palestinians and this week introduced a resolution in the House to recognize Palestinian Nakba — a term describing the displacement of Palestinians ahead of the 1948 establishment of Israel.

Tlaib, one of the most liberal and outspoken members of the House Democratic Caucus, has also been a persistent critic of President Joe Biden, delivering her own rebuttal to his State of Union address in March. She was also a “no” vote on Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law at the end of last year.

The two-term congresswoman said she voted against it because Democrats were reneging on a promise to pass that legislation alongside an expansive climate and social spending bill, commonly referred to as Build Back Better. By separating the two, she argued, progressives lost their leverage. And to date, Build Back Better remains stalled.

Sellers, the television pundit who is a former South Carolina state representative, is fundraising for the PAC. He says he wants to see the size of the Congressional Black Caucus increase in the next Congress and explains the PAC’s endorsement of Winfrey this way: " We are hoping that we can have a candidate that doesn’t have varying distractions,” he tells The Recast.

Winfrey is Black, while Tlaib is Palestinian-American.

When asked to comment on UEA’s endorsement, Denzel McCampbell, a spokesperson for Tlaib’s reelection campaign, said the representative is “battle tested.” He called on Winfrey to disavow the PAC’s spending.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Mapmaker Became New York’s Most Unexpected Power Broker, May 28, 2022. Jonathan Cervas, a former bartender from Las Vegas, radically redrew New York’s House district lines, forcing some Democratic incumbents to scramble for seats.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, An inspector general in Florida dismissed a former government employee’s complaints about coronavirus data manipulation, Patricia Mazzei, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). In 2020, a former health data analyst in Florida became something of a cause célèbre when she claimed that she had been fired from her government job for refusing to suppress coronavirus data from the public.

The analyst, Rebekah D. Jones, filed a formal whistle-blower complaint and turned into a vocal critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, as the virus surged two summers ago. The monthslong saga eventually led to a criminal charge against Ms. Jones, who is accused of accessing a state computer system and downloading a file without authorization.

On Thursday, the inspector general for the Florida Department of Health, where Ms. Jones used to work, released a 27-page investigative report that found three allegations by Ms. Jones against several health officials were “unsubstantiated.” It was first reported by NBC News.

“Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, occurred,” says the report from Michael J. Bennett, the inspector general.

The report also “exonerated” officials whom Ms. Jones had accused of directing her to restrict public access to some virus data, though no criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred.

Ms. Jones had made allegations against four officials: Courtney Coppola, the former chief of staff; Shamarial Roberson, the former deputy secretary; Dr. Carina Blackmore, the director of medical and health services for the division of disease control and health protection; and Patrick “Scott” Pritchard, a biological administrator.

Rick Johnson, a lawyer for Ms. Jones, noted that the inspector general could not prove or disprove her two main allegations: that Dr. Roberson directed falsification of data and that Ms. Coppola pressured Ms. Jones to falsify coronavirus positivity rates. Ms. Jones had said she had refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to end virus lockdowns.

“Unfortunately, this neutral finding is labeled ‘unsubstantiated,’” Mr. Johnson said in an email. “But a neutral finding from DeSantis’ own team is as good as a win.”

In the months after her firing for insubordination, Ms. Jones at times claimed that Florida hid Covid death data. The inspector general’s report does not address those claims, made after Ms. Jones had left the Department of Health. Epidemiologists familiar with the state’s statistics have not found evidence of widespread problems with Florida’s numbers, despite the sometimes confusing changes in how the data was being reported.

The felony case against Ms. Jones is pending. She dropped a case she had filed against the state after police officers raided her home during their criminal investigation.

She is running for Congress as a Democrat in Florida’s First Congressional District, in the Panhandle, where the incumbent is Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Updates: White House Pushes to Get Covid Treatment Pills to More Patients, Noah Weiland, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said increased use of Paxlovid would make virus deaths “largely preventable.” Get pandemic news.

White House officials said on Thursday that they were introducing new models for distributing Paxlovid, the Covid-19 oral medication made by Pfizer, in an effort to get the treatment to more people and keep coronavirus death rates relatively low even as cases increase.

The federal government will start reimbursing a clinic in Providence, R.I., for evaluating patients who test positive and immediately prescribing Paxlovid to those eligible for it — the first of what the White House said would be a series of federally supported sites, with others set to open in New York and Illinois. Federal workers are also being sent to state-run testing sites in Minnesota, transforming them into “test-to-treat” locations, the White House said.

“Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is get to a point where Covid deaths are largely preventable, and I think we’re pretty close to there,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said in an interview Wednesday evening. “Deaths from this disease really should become increasingly rare.”

Significant obstacles persist in getting Paxlovid to everyone who could benefit from it; more than a million courses of Paxlovid purchased by the government are still available, according to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services. Because of vague eligibility guidelines that are open to broad interpretation — the medication is authorized for people 12 and older with “mild-to-moderate” Covid-19 who are at risk of severe illness — some doctors are hesitant to prescribe the pill, or require extensive consultation.

As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases each day, according to a New York Times database, about a 30 percent increase over the last two weeks. But that is believed to be a significant undercount, since Americans are increasingly relying on at-home tests and their cases are often going unreported. New deaths have been at an average of fewer than 400 a day over the past two weeks.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 28, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 531,054,349, Deaths: 6,309,991
U.S. Cases:      85,699,847, Deaths: 1,031,218
Indian Cases:   43,150,215, Deaths:    524,572
Brazil Cases:    30,921,145, Deaths:    666,365

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court allows Biden climate regulations while fight continues, Robert Barnes and Anna Phillips, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Biden administration, for now, to use a higher estimate for the societal cost of rising greenhouse gases when federal agencies draft regulations.

In a one-sentence order without comment or noted dissent, the court turned aside a request from Louisiana and other Republican-led states to prevent federal agencies from using the administration’s estimate of the harm climate change causes, known as the “social cost of carbon.”

The federal government uses the estimate in all sorts of rulemaking, including new drilling permits and assessing the costs for crop losses and flood risks.

The estimates are something of a political football. After the Trump administration lowered the cost estimate from that set in the Obama administration, President Biden’s administration increased it. Republican-led states went to court.

A federal district judge in Louisiana ruled for the states and said the estimates could not be used. But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit disagreed and put the judge’s order on hold. The Supreme Court’s action Thursday keeps that ruling in place.

Appeals court rules for Biden administration in climate change suit

Louisiana’s lawyers called the estimates “a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

But the Biden administration responded that they had been used for years. It told the Supreme Court that the district judge’s ruling was wrong but also premature. The states should not be allowed to sue before an agency even implements a rule using the new cost estimates, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote, because they have not been harmed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandstorm wave sweeps Middle East, sending thousands to hospitals, Claire Parker and Kasha Patel, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Climate change and land-use practices are increasing the frequency of such storms across the region.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin Spacey Faces Sexual Assault Charges in Britain, Alex Marshall and Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Spacey, 62, faces four counts of sexual assault against three men. He cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales.

kevin spaceyThe British authorities are bringing criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, right, on four counts of sexual assault against three men, the country’s Crown Prosecution Service announced in a news release on Thursday.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s special crime division, said in the release that Mr. Spacey, 62, had “also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”

The authorization of charges followed a review of the evidence collected by London’s police force. Mr. Spacey cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales, a spokesman for the service said in a telephone interview. The spokesman declined to comment on whether the service would pursue extradition proceedings if that did not occur.

The news release said the charges concerned three complainants. The incidents dated from March 2005, August 2008 and April 2013, it added — a time when Mr. Spacey was artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London. All the incidents occurred in London, except one from 2013, which occurred in Gloucestershire, England.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Head of Louvre Is Charged in Artifact Trafficking Case, Aurelien Breeden, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Jean-Luc Martinez, who led the museum from 2013 to 2021, was charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in an investigation into the trafficking of Egyptian antiquities.

The former president of the Louvre has been charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in connection with an investigation into Egyptian artifacts that were trafficked over the past decade, French prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who was the president and director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, was released under judicial supervision after he was charged, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s office did not provide more details about the investigation, which was first reported by Le Canard Enchaîné and Le Monde.

Under the French legal system, the charges against Mr. Martinez indicate that investigators suspect him of involvement in a crime but he may not necessarily stand trial. The charges could be dropped at any point if the police uncover new evidence. Complex legal investigations often take several years to unfold in France.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 27

Top Headlines

 

uvalde victims

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


Top Stories

uvalde victims washington post logoWashington Post, As new timeline emerges, police criticized for response, Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gunman was inside school for an hour before police killed him, officials say. Texas authorities on Thursday contradicted previous statements about how police confronted and killed the gunman.

Everyone was being told to stand back.

Desperate parents gathering outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., were ordered by police to move away as they begged officers in tactical gear to go inside after a gunman. Some tried to rush in themselves; one man was pinned to the ground by officers, video recorded at the scene shows, and a witness told The Washington Post that a woman was handcuffed.

In bursts of chatter on an open radio channel on Tuesday, local ambulance drivers were directed to reports of injuries at a dangerous situation at the school, but cautioned to give law enforcement space to do their job. “Please, just stay back,” a voice told them. “I’ll call you guys up one at a time if we need you.”

But even as police from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, an hour passed before a heavily armed tactical team entered a 4th grade classroom and killed 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, according to video and information provided for the first time Thursday by public officials. By then, the gunman had fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others — America’s deadliest school massacre in almost a decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Uvalde’s elected officials have voted on gun laws, Amber Phillips, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The town of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, is represented by a range of politicians. It is rural, largely Hispanic and encompassed by political districts that lean conservative, but not by much.

Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. Uvalde, though, has elected politicians with a mix of views on the issue — including a Democratic state legislator who regularly votes with Republicans to loosen gun laws, and a top Republican senator who has sought compromise with Democrats in Washington on background checks. On Wednesday, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin (R), cursed out Beto O’Rourke when the Democrat interrupted a news conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the shooting. McLaughlin accused O’Rourke (who is trying to unseat Abbott) of exploiting grieving families for political gain.

Here’s a rundown of how the politicians who represent Uvalde have loosened or tried to strengthen recent gun control laws:

Gov. Greg Abbott (R): The governor of Texas is one of the most pro-gun politicians in America. Last year he pushed for and signed into law a permitless carry bill, making it so almost anyone over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without a license. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that it was "an expansion of gun rights so divisive Republican leaders in previous years refused to touch it.”

Just two years earlier, Texas was the site of two particularly horrific mass shootings — including a racially-motivated one in an El Paso grocery store — and Abbott and top Texas Republicans said they were willing to make changes to gun laws to keep them away from criminals.

But while Abbott signed a few measures — such as standing up an active shooter alert system and making it a state crime to lie on a background check form to buy a gun — Republicans defeated most of the other bills proposed by Democrats. He signed other measures easing restrictions on guns and making Texas a “sanctuary” state for the Second Amendment.

 

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for New York Times).

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Details of Massacre Emerge as Families Grieve, Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The police released details about the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, but questions remained about the gunman’s actions and his motive.

Families in the tight-knit town continued to mourn their lost children on what would have been the last day of classes before summer break. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Days After Massacre at Uvalde School, N.R.A. Gathers in Texas, Glenn Thrush, May 27, 2022. Former President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are expected to speak at an annual National Rifle Association convention in Houston today.

nra logo CustomThe governor of Texas won’t appear in person at the N.R.A.’s convention.  In Uvalde, Texas, grief after the deadly school shooting has mixed with a sense of deep unease about a police response that many parents say was sluggish and ineffective. In Washington, Republicans in the Senate expressed a willingness to negotiate a long-shot bipartisan gun deal on a modest expansion of background checks.

But Houston is also likely to be closely watched over the weekend as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention begins there on Friday.

In years past, the conclave has taken on the tenor of a gun-rights rally. This one was planned months ago, but its timing puts it in the spotlight. Follow updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Destruction in Ukraine’s East as Civilian Toll Rises, Megan Specia, Andrew E. Kramer and Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022. As Russia made gains in eastern Ukraine, including seizing the city of Lyman, the devastation in the region has widened a civilian crisis. Here’s the latest.

Russian forces’ capturing of Lyman made it the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. As civilian deaths and suffering mounted, a new report by international legal scholars and rights experts cited a “genocidal pattern” by Russia’s military.

And the strikes continued to exact a daily toll on Friday. In Dnipro, in east-central Ukraine, an official said that at least 10 people had been killed and at least 30 injured in early morning shelling in the city. He said a missile launched from Russia’s Rostov region had hit a Ukrainian National Guard facility.

Russian and Ukrainian officials confirmed on Friday that Russian forces had captured Lyman, the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. Lyman’s fall followed intense artillery bombardments, including from one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s conventional arsenal: fuel-air bombs that set off huge, destructive shock waves. And while the weapons’ use highlighted the pyrrhic victories Russia’s military has achieved in its scaled-down objectives in Ukraine’s east, its capturing of Lyman also showed its ability to gain ground using creeping advances.

The ripple effects of the war are also reaching out much farther than Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Grain shortages prompted by Ukraine’s inability to ship out its harvests amid a Russian blockade are increasing fears of a global food crisis, and Ukrainian officials continue to raise the alarm about the harm to civilians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned in an overnight address that Russian forces were trying to turn cities and towns in the east of the country “to ashes.” With civilians also being killed at an alarming rate, he charged that the actions amounted to “an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.”

A new report from international legal scholars released on Friday echoed such claims about the war generally. It said that mass killings, deliberate attacks on shelters or evacuation routes, and the indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas by Russian forces established a “genocidal pattern” indicating an intent to wipe out a substantial part of the Ukrainian population.

In other developments:

  • Several neighborhoods in Kharkiv, the northeastern city where the Ukrainians repelled an attempted Russian encirclement in mid-May, came under fire on Thursday, with at least nine people killed. It shattered a sense of relative peace that had begun returning to the country’s second-largest city.
  • Mr. Zelensky expressed frustration that the European Union had yet to approve a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that would include an oil embargo.
  • The Biden administration said it expected Russia to default on its bond payments to U.S. investors now that the Treasury Department has allowed to lapse a sanctions exemption that permitted Russia to make those payments.

European Union leaders will gather in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the war in Ukraine, focusing on the country’s financial needs for reconstruction the effect the war is having on energy and global food prices, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said in his customary pre-meeting invitation letter. They’ll be joined by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine via videolink on Monday.

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. won’t charge FBI agents accused of botching Larry Nassar case, Devlin Barrett, May 26, 2022. Two former FBI agents accused of mishandling sex-abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (shown below in court with an attorney) will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

In a statement, officials said that after a “careful re-review of evidence,” the department “is adhering to its prior decision not to bring federal criminal charges,” adding: “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”

FBI logoJohn Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the decision “incomprehensible” and said the FBI agents “violated their oaths of office and colluded in the cover up of the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.” He said the timing of the announcement — shortly before a holiday weekend, and during coverage of a school shooting — “is one more cynical attempt by the [Justice Department] to cover up FBI complicity” in the Nassar scandal.

The decision marks the third time that federal prosecutors examined whether a senior FBI official and a case agent should be charged with lying about their work on the Nassar case. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco opened the review after several world-famous gymnasts in September gave tearful testimony to Congress, describing in horrifying detail the abuse they endured and their incredulity over the FBI’s decision not to further investigate Nassar after the allegations against him first surfaced.

Monaco, in announcing the review, said officials would look again at the issue because new evidence had surfaced. Though she did not specify what that evidence was, lawmakers have sharply criticized the Justice Department for not pursuing charges after the agency’s inspector general concluded a supervisory agent and his boss lied to internal investigators in a bid to cover up their failures.

It is rare for the Justice Department even to consider reopening a case that was closed without charges. One of the Nassar agents retired years ago and the other was fired last summer in the wake of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report, which found major missteps in the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar in 2015 that allowed him to victimize more patients before he was arrested by state authorities the following year.

In its statement, the Justice Department said it will “continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” and said it wanted to work with Congress to address unspecified gaps in the law to “help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable.”

richard blumenthal portraitSens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), left, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called the decision “infuriating.” In a joint statement, they said: "FBI agents who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse, did nothing, and then lied about it will face no legal consequences for their actions. Dozens of athletes would have been spared unimaginable abuse if these agents had just done their jobs. Their actions demand accountability.”

Simone Biles, below left, and three other high-profile gymnasts (Mykala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, shown below left to right in a pool photo by Saul Loeb of AFP on Sept. 15, 2021) gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year about Nassar’s abuse and the FBI’s failure to act.

simone biles mykala maroney aly raisman maggie nichols saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21

More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child-pornography charges, and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, Hannah Thacker, John Muyskens and Monica Ulmanu, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.

The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.

Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized.

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day.

The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever, Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The organization is embroiled in lawsuits and infighting. Nevertheless, the potency of gun rights as a motivating issue for Republican voters and politicians has only intensified.

nra logo CustomNearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hard-line messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and that all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless. The NRA, which will host former president Donald Trump at its annual convention Friday in Houston, has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz storms off after being asked why mass shootings happen ‘only in America,’ Timothy Bella, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, In first test after Uvalde, Senate GOP blocks domestic terror bill, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The White House announced that President Biden will travel to Uvalde, Tex., with the first lady Sunday to meet and grieve with the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting there. More details on the travel are to come. The president has no public events on his schedule Thursday.

The White House also announced Thursday that the superstar K-pop group BTS will join Biden at the White House next week to help put a spotlight on anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which became more prevalent starting early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, before leaving town for a Memorial Day recess, Senate Republicans blocked legislation intended to combat domestic terrorism. Democrats pitched the bill as Congress’s first opportunity to pass legislation responding to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo. Republicans argued that the bill, which would set up domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, was unnecessary and that Democrats are trying to score political points.
Washington Post, They played basketball and soccer. They made honor roll. They danced with their siblings, Staff Report, May 26, 2022. The fourth-graders were 9 and 10 years old. They were preparing for summer break. Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Carnage Occurred in Single Classroom at Texas School, Edgar Sandoval, Julie Bosman, J. David Goodman and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Chilling Details Emerge in Killing of 19 Children and 2 Teachers. All of the school’s dead and injured were in one classroom, an official said. The gunman, who attended school nearby, also died. Here’s the latest.

Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail on Wednesday how an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother and left her wounded at her home, drove a pickup truck that crashed at a high speed by an elementary school less than a half mile away and exchanged shots with police officers on the scene who were unable to stop him before he killed 19 children and two teachers in a massacre in a single classroom.

According to preliminary investigatory documents described by a state police official, the gunman, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, used a rifle in the killings on Tuesday, and a second, similar weapon was left in the truck outside. Mr. Ramos purchased both guns within the last week, just after his 18th birthday, the official said.

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s grain blockade may require U.S. intervention, general suggests, Karoun Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Western officials accused Moscow of using food as a form of blackmail.

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo).

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

Israel FlagThe Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lebanese spy chief says U.S. wants his help to free Americans in Syria, Sarah Dadouch, Kareem Fahim and Suzan Haidamous, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Lebanon’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he met with Biden administration officials this week to discuss ways he could help secure the release of six Americans who are being held prisoner or are missing in Syria, including Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributed to The Washington Post.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the Lebanese General Security Directorate, said in an interview that he received an invitation to the White House earlier this month to discuss the missing Americans. The invitation came a few days after President Biden met with Tice’s parents.

Ibrahim, who has helped to secure the release of several hostages in the Middle East over the past decade, has for years been involved in the effort to locate Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, as well as other missing Americans. “They wanted me to resume my effort to solve this problem,” he said, referring to his meetings this week with White House officials. “They wanted their people back, and this is their goal.”

Syria releases U.S. citizen captured while trying to visit every country in the world

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday confirmed that Ibrahim met with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “We are not going to comment on the specifics of those discussions beyond restating the fact that we have no higher priority than seeing the safe release of Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage anywhere around the world,” Price said during a news briefing.

“Of course, we talked about the case of Austin Tice yesterday, an American who has been — who has been separated from his family for nearly 10 years, who has spent a quarter of his life separated from his family,” Price said. “He is always top of mind. The other Americans who are detained in places like Iran and Russia and Afghanistan and Venezuela and elsewhere are always top of mind for us too.”

Tice disappeared when he attempted to leave the rebel-held town of Darayya, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Darayya was surrounded by government troops at the time. His family members have repeatedly said they are confident that he is alive. Syria has not publicly acknowledged holding Tice or the other Americans, including Majd Kamalmaz, a psychotherapist who went missing in 2017, and four other U.S. citizens whose families do not want publicity.

Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, on May 2, and “reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin’s long overdue return to his family,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement at the time.

 Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia Struggles to Stave Off a Return to Soviet-Era Scarcity, Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The economic cost of the invasion of Ukraine could eventually alter President Vladimir Putin’s calculus. In aviation, a lack of crucial parts could ground much of the country’s fleet and make flying a game of ‘Russian roulette.’

Stung by Western sanctions, Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes, where shortages are stirring memories of the consumer wasteland that was the Soviet Union.

While it may be able to find new purveyors for some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India, Russia is increasingly determined to make its own — returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Already, Moscow is facing serious challenges.

Unable to secure spare parts from Western airplane manufacturers, for instance, the Russian aviation sector is facing a crisis. About 80 percent of Russia’s commercial fleet consists of foreign-made planes, predominantly from Airbus and Boeing, both of which have stopped doing business with Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Northwest Florida Daily News, Gaetz family extortion attempt: Stephen Alford’s sentencing gets postponed for fifth time, Tom McLaughlin, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Sentencing for Stephen Alford, an oft-convicted felon facing up to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to extort millions from the politically powerful family of Congressman Matt Gaetz, has been pushed back to Aug. 22.

Alford was arrested in August 2021 and charged with wire fraud and attempting to prevent seizure of an electronic device. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on Nov. 21 of last year.

He was originally scheduled for sentencing Feb. 16. The date has been pushed back five times, most recently from June 1 to July 13 and then again to the August date.

Charging documents state Alford "falsely reported" to Don Gaetz, a former Florida Senate president and father of Matt Gaetz, that he could arrange a presidential pardon for the congressman in exchange for $25 million that he would use to free a former CIA agent held hostage by the Iranian government.

Alford pleads guilty:Man accused of attempting to extort millions from Gaetz family pleads guilty to wire fraud

Latest on the congressman:Gaetz called abortion rights protestors 'over-educated, under-loved.' His opponents responded.

"He would get that pardon" the congressman might need to avoid being federally indicted on sex trafficking charges, charging documents said.

matt gaetz officialMatt Gaetz, right, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been under federal investigation for more than a year based on allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz is also reportedly being looked at for obstruction of justice and having dealings with other women who received drugs and/or money in violation of prostitution and sex trafficking laws.

Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector and Gaetz associate, has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in the case and is said to be cooperating with prosecutors in the Gaetz investigation.

No charges have been filed against Gaetz, and he points to Alford's attempt to extort money from his family as evidence the allegations against him are baseless.

Politico, 2016 Clinton attorney Sussmann won't testify in his own defense at trial, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 27, 2022 (print ed.).  Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case beginning Friday morning.

politico CustomDemocratic attorney Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to the FBI about his work for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has decided not to testify in his own defense at his ongoing trial on a false-statement charge.

Prosecutors from the office of special counsel John Durham have charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when he denied that he was working for the Clinton campaign when handing over to the bureau allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia. His decision not to take the stand, revealed Thursday morning in court by Sussmann’s defense team, signals that trial will imminently come to a close and could reach jurors before the week is out.

michael sussmann perkins youngerSussmann’s defense rested its case on Thursday and jurors are expected to hear closing arguments beginning Friday morning.

The decision not to have Sussmann testify in his own defense signals a degree of confidence by the defense team in its case after almost two weeks of witnesses, evidence and arguments at U.S. District Court in Washington.

If Sussmann were to take the stand, he would have opened himself to questioning by the prosecution on a series of potential weaknesses in the defense’s case. They include a text message he sent to FBI General Counsel James Baker the night before Sussmann gave Baker data and reports on an alleged link between a Trump-related email server and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the text message, which was discovered after Sussmann was indicted last year, he told Baker he was “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company.”

Both sides in the case agreed Thursday that the only issue to go to the jury will be whether Sussmann lied at the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in Baker’s office at FBI headquarters.

 

amber heard 5 5 2022 trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Heard Describes Impact of Online Attacks: ‘I’m a Human Being,’ Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Heard, who is being sued by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for defamation, said the mockery of her previous testimony on social media had been “agonizing.”

One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.

“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”

Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.

She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.

 Washington Post, Depp-Heard trial returns to the much-discussed severed finger

Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump E.P.A. Chief Repeatedly Ordered His Drivers to Speed, Eric Lipton, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). A report validated whistle-blower allegations that Scott Pruitt forced his security detail to drive at dangerous speeds because he was running late.

Scott Pruitt, while in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration, repeatedly pressured his federal security officers to drive at excessive and sometimes dangerous speeds on routine trips, with sirens and emergency lights on, because he had a habit of running late, according to a federal report released on Thursday.

The security officers said they knew this was a violation of federal policies and “endangered public safety,” the report said. Among the incidents cited in the report was a 2017 trip in which a special agent drove Mr. Pruitt with the lights and sirens going, in the wrong direction into oncoming traffic, to pick up Mr. Pruitt’s dry cleaning, when Mr. Pruitt was late for an agency meeting.

“Can you guys use that magic button to get us through traffic?” Mr. Pruitt would ask members of his security detail, the report said. He would say “speed it up” or “we need to get there quicker,” orders that the security agents said they found “hard to disobey,” even though the lights and sirens were supposed to be used only in emergencies, it said.

Reports about this improper use of lights and sirens first became public in 2018, along with other assertions of wrongdoing by Mr. Pruitt, including first-class travel back to his home in Oklahoma on government-paid flights and improper use of government funds to build a $43,000 soundproof phone booth inside his office. They ultimately led to his resignation in July 2018.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, An inspector general in Florida dismissed a former government employee’s complaints about coronavirus data manipulation, Patricia Mazzei, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). In 2020, a former health data analyst in Florida became something of a cause célèbre when she claimed that she had been fired from her government job for refusing to suppress coronavirus data from the public.

The analyst, Rebekah D. Jones, filed a formal whistle-blower complaint and turned into a vocal critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, as the virus surged two summers ago. The monthslong saga eventually led to a criminal charge against Ms. Jones, who is accused of accessing a state computer system and downloading a file without authorization.

On Thursday, the inspector general for the Florida Department of Health, where Ms. Jones used to work, released a 27-page investigative report that found three allegations by Ms. Jones against several health officials were “unsubstantiated.” It was first reported by NBC News.

“Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, occurred,” says the report from Michael J. Bennett, the inspector general.

The report also “exonerated” officials whom Ms. Jones had accused of directing her to restrict public access to some virus data, though no criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred.

Ms. Jones had made allegations against four officials: Courtney Coppola, the former chief of staff; Shamarial Roberson, the former deputy secretary; Dr. Carina Blackmore, the director of medical and health services for the division of disease control and health protection; and Patrick “Scott” Pritchard, a biological administrator.

Rick Johnson, a lawyer for Ms. Jones, noted that the inspector general could not prove or disprove her two main allegations: that Dr. Roberson directed falsification of data and that Ms. Coppola pressured Ms. Jones to falsify coronavirus positivity rates. Ms. Jones had said she had refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to end virus lockdowns.

“Unfortunately, this neutral finding is labeled ‘unsubstantiated,’” Mr. Johnson said in an email. “But a neutral finding from DeSantis’ own team is as good as a win.”

In the months after her firing for insubordination, Ms. Jones at times claimed that Florida hid Covid death data. The inspector general’s report does not address those claims, made after Ms. Jones had left the Department of Health. Epidemiologists familiar with the state’s statistics have not found evidence of widespread problems with Florida’s numbers, despite the sometimes confusing changes in how the data was being reported.

The felony case against Ms. Jones is pending. She dropped a case she had filed against the state after police officers raided her home during their criminal investigation.

She is running for Congress as a Democrat in Florida’s First Congressional District, in the Panhandle, where the incumbent is Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Updates: White House Pushes to Get Covid Treatment Pills to More Patients, Noah Weiland, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said increased use of Paxlovid would make virus deaths “largely preventable.” Get pandemic news.

White House officials said on Thursday that they were introducing new models for distributing Paxlovid, the Covid-19 oral medication made by Pfizer, in an effort to get the treatment to more people and keep coronavirus death rates relatively low even as cases increase.

The federal government will start reimbursing a clinic in Providence, R.I., for evaluating patients who test positive and immediately prescribing Paxlovid to those eligible for it — the first of what the White House said would be a series of federally supported sites, with others set to open in New York and Illinois. Federal workers are also being sent to state-run testing sites in Minnesota, transforming them into “test-to-treat” locations, the White House said.

“Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is get to a point where Covid deaths are largely preventable, and I think we’re pretty close to there,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said in an interview Wednesday evening. “Deaths from this disease really should become increasingly rare.”

Significant obstacles persist in getting Paxlovid to everyone who could benefit from it; more than a million courses of Paxlovid purchased by the government are still available, according to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services. Because of vague eligibility guidelines that are open to broad interpretation — the medication is authorized for people 12 and older with “mild-to-moderate” Covid-19 who are at risk of severe illness — some doctors are hesitant to prescribe the pill, or require extensive consultation.

As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases each day, according to a New York Times database, about a 30 percent increase over the last two weeks. But that is believed to be a significant undercount, since Americans are increasingly relying on at-home tests and their cases are often going unreported. New deaths have been at an average of fewer than 400 a day over the past two weeks.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 27, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 530,469,195, Deaths: 6,308,131
U.S. Cases:      85,570,755, Deaths:1,030,775
Indian Cases:   43,147,530, Deaths:   524,539
Brazil Cases:   30,880,512, Deaths:    666,248

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court allows Biden climate regulations while fight continues, Robert Barnes and Anna Phillips, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Biden administration, for now, to use a higher estimate for the societal cost of rising greenhouse gases when federal agencies draft regulations.

In a one-sentence order without comment or noted dissent, the court turned aside a request from Louisiana and other Republican-led states to prevent federal agencies from using the administration’s estimate of the harm climate change causes, known as the “social cost of carbon.”

The federal government uses the estimate in all sorts of rulemaking, including new drilling permits and assessing the costs for crop losses and flood risks.

The estimates are something of a political football. After the Trump administration lowered the cost estimate from that set in the Obama administration, President Biden’s administration increased it. Republican-led states went to court.

A federal district judge in Louisiana ruled for the states and said the estimates could not be used. But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit disagreed and put the judge’s order on hold. The Supreme Court’s action Thursday keeps that ruling in place.

Appeals court rules for Biden administration in climate change suit

Louisiana’s lawyers called the estimates “a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

But the Biden administration responded that they had been used for years. It told the Supreme Court that the district judge’s ruling was wrong but also premature. The states should not be allowed to sue before an agency even implements a rule using the new cost estimates, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote, because they have not been harmed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandstorm wave sweeps Middle East, sending thousands to hospitals, Claire Parker and Kasha Patel, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Climate change and land-use practices are increasing the frequency of such storms across the region.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin Spacey Faces Sexual Assault Charges in Britain, Alex Marshall and Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Spacey, 62, faces four counts of sexual assault against three men. He cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales.

kevin spaceyThe British authorities are bringing criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, right, on four counts of sexual assault against three men, the country’s Crown Prosecution Service announced in a news release on Thursday.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s special crime division, said in the release that Mr. Spacey, 62, had “also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”

The authorization of charges followed a review of the evidence collected by London’s police force. Mr. Spacey cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales, a spokesman for the service said in a telephone interview. The spokesman declined to comment on whether the service would pursue extradition proceedings if that did not occur.

The news release said the charges concerned three complainants. The incidents dated from March 2005, August 2008 and April 2013, it added — a time when Mr. Spacey was artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London. All the incidents occurred in London, except one from 2013, which occurred in Gloucestershire, England.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Head of Louvre Is Charged in Artifact Trafficking Case, Aurelien Breeden, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Jean-Luc Martinez, who led the museum from 2013 to 2021, was charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in an investigation into the trafficking of Egyptian antiquities.

The former president of the Louvre has been charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in connection with an investigation into Egyptian artifacts that were trafficked over the past decade, French prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who was the president and director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, was released under judicial supervision after he was charged, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s office did not provide more details about the investigation, which was first reported by Le Canard Enchaîné and Le Monde.

Under the French legal system, the charges against Mr. Martinez indicate that investigators suspect him of involvement in a crime but he may not necessarily stand trial. The charges could be dropped at any point if the police uncover new evidence. Complex legal investigations often take several years to unfold in France.

ny times logoNew York Times, Her Tennis Coach Abused Her. Could the Sport Have Prevented It? Matthew Futterman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Adrienne Jensen does not know Pam Shriver, the 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, but both say tennis needs to change its approach toward predatory coaches.

The grooming of Adrienne Jensen began with an invitation to train with a top junior tennis coach at a well-regarded tennis academy in suburban Kansas City in 2009.

To Jensen, then a promising teenage player from Iowa City who had struggled to find elite training, the offer felt like the ultimate good fortune, even if accepting it meant upending her family’s life.

Early on that fall, Jensen’s gamble seemed to be paying off as she trained with the coach, Rex Haultain, and played deeper into increasingly competitive tournaments.

“I felt like he was my ticket,” Jensen, now 27 and about to begin a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, said in a recent interview.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 26

Top Headlines

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion


U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


Top Stories

uvalde victims washington post logoWashington Post, As new timeline emerges, police criticized for response, Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman, May 26, 2022. Gunman was inside school for an hour before police killed him, officials say. Texas authorities on Thursday contradicted previous statements about how police confronted and killed the gunman.

Everyone was being told to stand back.

Desperate parents gathering outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., were ordered by police to move away as they begged officers in tactical gear to go inside after a gunman. Some tried to rush in themselves; one man was pinned to the ground by officers, video recorded at the scene shows, and a witness told The Washington Post that a woman was handcuffed.

In bursts of chatter on an open radio channel on Tuesday, local ambulance drivers were directed to reports of injuries at a dangerous situation at the school, but cautioned to give law enforcement space to do their job. “Please, just stay back,” a voice told them. “I’ll call you guys up one at a time if we need you.”

But even as police from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, an hour passed before a heavily armed tactical team entered a 4th grade classroom and killed 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, according to video and information provided for the first time Thursday by public officials. By then, the gunman had fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others — America’s deadliest school massacre in almost a decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Uvalde’s elected officials have voted on gun laws, Amber Phillips, May 26, 2022. The town of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, is represented by a range of politicians. It is rural, largely Hispanic and encompassed by political districts that lean conservative, but not by much.

Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. Uvalde, though, has elected politicians with a mix of views on the issue — including a Democratic state legislator who regularly votes with Republicans to loosen gun laws, and a top Republican senator who has sought compromise with Democrats in Washington on background checks. On Wednesday, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin (R), cursed out Beto O’Rourke when the Democrat interrupted a news conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the shooting. McLaughlin accused O’Rourke (who is trying to unseat Abbott) of exploiting grieving families for political gain.

Here’s a rundown of how the politicians who represent Uvalde have loosened or tried to strengthen recent gun control laws:

Gov. Greg Abbott (R): The governor of Texas is one of the most pro-gun politicians in America. Last year he pushed for and signed into law a permitless carry bill, making it so almost anyone over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without a license. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that it was "an expansion of gun rights so divisive Republican leaders in previous years refused to touch it.”

Just two years earlier, Texas was the site of two particularly horrific mass shootings — including a racially-motivated one in an El Paso grocery store — and Abbott and top Texas Republicans said they were willing to make changes to gun laws to keep them away from criminals.

But while Abbott signed a few measures — such as standing up an active shooter alert system and making it a state crime to lie on a background check form to buy a gun — Republicans defeated most of the other bills proposed by Democrats. He signed other measures easing restrictions on guns and making Texas a “sanctuary” state for the Second Amendment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Details of Massacre Emerge as Families Grieve, Victoria Kim, May 26, 2022. The police released details about the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, but questions remained about the gunman’s actions and his motive.

Families in the tight-knit town continued to mourn their lost children on what would have been the last day of classes before summer break. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman was bullied as a child, grew increasingly violent, friends say, Robert Klemko, Silvia Foster-Frau and Shawn Boburg, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Relatives, classmates describe fraught relationship with mother and a troubling pattern of acting out.

The gunman in Tuesday’s elementary school massacre was a lonely 18-year-old who was bullied over a childhood speech impediment, suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years, friends and relatives said.

Using weapons purchased this month, days after his 18th birthday, authorities said, Salvador Rolando Ramos shot and critically wounded his grandmother. He then went on a shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School near his home in Uvalde, Tex., killing at least 19 children and two adults and injuring others.

Ramos also was fatally shot, apparently by police. The Texas Department of Public Safety said he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle.

Santos Valdez Jr., 18, said he has known Ramos since early elementary school. They were friends, he said, until Ramos’s behavior started to deteriorate.

They used to play video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. But then Ramos changed. Once, Valdez said, Ramos pulled up to a park where they often played basketball and had cuts all over his face. He first said a cat had scratched his face.

“Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,” Valdez said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, bro, why would you do that?’”

Ramos said he did it for fun, Valdez recalled.

In middle school and junior high, Ramos was bullied for having a stutter and a strong lisp, friends and family said.

Stephen Garcia, who considered himself Ramos’s best friend in eighth grade, said Ramos didn’t have it easy in school. “He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” Garcia said. “Over social media, over gaming, over everything.”

Garcia said he tried to stand up for him. But when Garcia and his mother relocated to another part of Texas for her job, “he just started being a different person,” Garcia said. “He kept getting worse and worse, and I don’t even know.”

When Garcia left, Ramos dropped out of school. He started wearing all black, Garcia said, and large military boots. He grew his hair out long.

He missed long periods of high school, classmates said, and was not on track to graduate with them this year.

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Said to Have Reacted Approvingly to Jan. 6 Chants About Hanging Pence, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol assault has heard accounts of Donald Trump’s remarks, mike pence leftincluding about Mike Pence, as he watched the riot unfold.

Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president, left, was being whisked to safety.

Mark MeadowsMr. Meadows, right, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.

It is not clear what tone Mr. Trump was said to have used. But the reported remark was further evidence of how extreme the rupture between the president and his vice president had become, and of how Mr. Trump not only failed to take action to call off the rioters but appeared to identify with their sentiments about Mr. Pence — whom he had unsuccessfully pressured to block certification of the Electoral College results that day — as a reflection of his own frustration at being unable to reverse his loss.

The account of Mr. Trump’s comment was initially provided to the House committee by at least one witness, according to two people briefed on their work, as the panel develops a timeline of what the president was doing during the riot.

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Inquiry Into Alternate Electors Focuses on Trump Lawyers, Alan Feuer, Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). In recent subpoenas, prosecutors investigating alternate slates of electors sought information about Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and others.

The Justice Department has stepped up its criminal investigation into the creation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 election, with a particular focus on a team of lawyers that worked on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

A federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas in recent weeks to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers including Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and one of his chief legal advisers, John Eastman, one of the people said.

The subpoenas also seek information on other pro-Trump lawyers like Jenna Ellis, who worked with Mr. Giuliani, and Kenneth Chesebro, who wrote memos supporting the elector scheme in the weeks after the election.

A top Justice Department official acknowledged in January that prosecutors were trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the scheme.

Under the plan, election officials in seven key swing states put forward formal lists of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College on the grounds that the states would be shown to have swung in favor of Mr. Trump once their claims of widespread election fraud had been accepted. Those claims were baseless, and all seven states were awarded to Mr. Biden.

It is a federal crime to knowingly submit false statements to a federal agency or agent for an undue end. The alternate elector slates were filed with a handful of government bodies, including the National Archives.

The focus on the alternate electors is only one of the efforts by the Justice Department to broaden its vast investigation of hundreds of rioters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 26, 2022. Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022. The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, Hannah Thacker, John Muyskens and Monica Ulmanu, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.

The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.

Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized.

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day.

The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever, Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig, May 26, 2022.  The organization is embroiled in lawsuits and infighting. Nevertheless, the potency of gun rights as a motivating issue for Republican voters and politicians has only intensified.

Nearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hard-line messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and that all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless. The NRA, which will host former president Donald Trump at its annual convention Friday in Houston, has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz storms off after being asked why mass shootings happen ‘only in America,’ Timothy Bella, May 26, 2022.  As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, In first test after Uvalde, Senate GOP blocks domestic terror bill, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 26, 2022.
Today, the White House announced that President Biden will travel to Uvalde, Tex., with the first lady Sunday to meet and grieve with the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting there. More details on the travel are to come. The president has no public events on his schedule Thursday.

The White House also announced Thursday that the superstar K-pop group BTS will join Biden at the White House next week to help put a spotlight on anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which became more prevalent starting early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, before leaving town for a Memorial Day recess, Senate Republicans blocked legislation intended to combat domestic terrorism. Democrats pitched the bill as Congress’s first opportunity to pass legislation responding to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo. Republicans argued that the bill, which would set up domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, was unnecessary and that Democrats are trying to score political points.
Washington Post, They played basketball and soccer. They made honor roll. They danced with their siblings, Staff Report, May 26, 2022. The fourth-graders were 9 and 10 years old. They were preparing for summer break. Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Carnage Occurred in Single Classroom at Texas School, Edgar Sandoval, Julie Bosman, J. David Goodman and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Chilling Details Emerge in Killing of 19 Children and 2 Teachers. All of the school’s dead and injured were in one classroom, an official said. The gunman, who attended school nearby, also died. Here’s the latest.

Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail on Wednesday how an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother and left her wounded at her home, drove a pickup truck that crashed at a high speed by an elementary school less than a half mile away and exchanged shots with police officers on the scene who were unable to stop him before he killed 19 children and two teachers in a massacre in a single classroom.

According to preliminary investigatory documents described by a state police official, the gunman, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, used a rifle in the killings on Tuesday, and a second, similar weapon was left in the truck outside. Mr. Ramos purchased both guns within the last week, just after his 18th birthday, the official said.

beto orourke 5 24 2022 texas gregg abbott

Politico, 'You are doing nothing': O'Rourke accosts Abbott at press conference on shooting, Kelly Hooper, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). O'Rourke, with back to camera, was escorted out of the event by security. 

politico CustomTexas Democrat Beto O’Rourke confronted Gov. Greg Abbott (seated above at center) at a press conference on Wednesday, accusing the governor of inaction on gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

Abbott, flanked by law enforcement officers and fellow Republican lawmakers, had just wrapped up giving an update on the Uvalde, Texas, shooting Wednesday afternoon — in which he said mental health was the root cause of the deadly event — when O’Rourke approached the stage.

“Governor Abbott, I have to say something,” O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Abbott in November’s midterm elections, said. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.”

The totality of O’Rourke’s remarks were difficult to hear as he was shouted down by those on stage who were speaking into microphones. Among those attempting to speak over O’Rourke was Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, who told the former El Paso congressman to “sit down” and that he was “an embarrassment.”
O'Rourke talks to reporters after being ejected from Texas school shooting presser

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, standing behind Abbott, shouted at O’Rourke, “I can’t believe you’re a sick son of a b---- that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.”

When O’Rourke yelled toward the stage, “It’s on you,” McLaughlin replied: “It’s on assholes like you. Why don’t you get out of here.”

O’Rourke was escorted out of the event by security.

His outburst seemed to channel the nationwide outrage from advocates for stricter gun laws that has followed Tuesday’s shooting. That attack has prompted Democrats in Washington to relaunch efforts to enact gun restrictions despite widespread skepticism within the caucus that such legislation has any realistic chance of winning enough Republican support to pass.

O’Rourke continued his remarks outside of the event. He railed against Abbott for not funding mental health care services for Texans and for not expanding Medicaid, which could in turn expand mental health care access.

He further slammed the Republican for his opposition to red-flag laws, safe storage laws and bans on assault-style weapons.

“This 18-year-old, who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them. Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state, year after year, city after city?” O’Rourke shouted. “This is on all of us if we do not do something, and I am going to do something. I’m not alone.”

washington post logoWashington Post, What we know about the victims so far, Moriah Balingit, Beth Reinhard, María Luisa Paúl, Holly Bailey and Karina Elwood, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). A veteran educator, a jubilant 10-year-old and a fourth-grader who had just made the honor roll were among the dead.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Uvalde, Buffalo and the Semiautomatic Weapons That Terrorize Us, Mary B. McCord, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. McCord, the executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, was the acting assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration.

Within the past two weeks, the country saw the two deadliest mass shootings of the year, both committed by 18-year-olds. The motive for Tuesday’s attack on elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas, is still unknown. But the motive for the Buffalo attack appears clear from the online screed left by the accused attacker. Influenced by the “great replacement” theory, he sought to kill as many Black people as he could. Ten died.

This is terrorism by definition: the use of violence to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence government policy. In the United States, it is often accomplished using semiautomatic weapons.

Permissive gun laws and easy access to firearms make the United States a prime target for firearms-based terrorist attacks like the one in Buffalo. They subject the population to the constant threat of mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were fatally shot. Whether that shooting ultimately meets the statutory definition of terrorism or not, it certainly has terrified people nationwide, raising fears yet again that children are at risk, even in their schools, from a violence abetted by the ready availability of semiautomatic weapons.

In Buffalo, the shooter was armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle. Officials have yet to say if the Texas shooter used a semiautomatic weapon or weapons; news media have reported that he bought two of them for his recent 18th birthday.

Along with dozens of former national security and law enforcement officials, I warned about the dangers of “unfettered access to firearms” in a brief filed with the Supreme Court in the latest gun case to come before the justices, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

That pending case concerns restrictions on carrying concealed firearms. But whether the gun is concealed or not, there is no question that the ready availability of guns in the United States challenges not only public safety but also national security. The United States must treat the easy access to semiautomatic weapons as the national security threat it is.

Foreign terrorist organizations have long urged their followers to take advantage of lax U.S. gun laws to plan attacks in the United States.

In 2017 an Islamic State propaganda video featured a reportedly American fighter, wearing fatigues and a holstered pistol, urging sympathizers in the United States to “take advantage of the fact that you can easily obtain a rifle or a pistol in America” and “spray” the infidels “with bullets.” A prominent American Al Qaeda recruit urged potential recruits in a 2011 video to “go down to a gun show at a local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?” The people who killed 14 in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 and 49 in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 — and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State — committed their carnage using semiautomatic firearms.

As the attacks make clear, these types of military-style weapons are not used only by those who commit mass shootings in the name of foreign terrorist groups.

The person accused of the Buffalo shooting got out of his vehicle in front of the Tops supermarket looking as if he were entering a war zone. He wore body armor, tactical gear and a helmet. He carried a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle, modified to hold high-capacity magazines. He had a shotgun and a rifle in his car for backup.

But he didn’t need the backup weapons to quickly shoot four people in the parking lot, killing three of them. He didn’t need them to kill a security guard inside the store whose own firearm was no match for the body armor. Nor did he need them to shoot several other people inside the store. The semiautomatic assault-style rifle, reportedly purchased at a small gun store for less than $1,000, was all he needed to commit his massacre.

  • Washington Post, Anger, anguish among Parkland and Newtown families after Texas shooting, John Woodrow Cox, May 25, 2022.
  • Washington Post, ‘What are we doing?’: Democrats assail GOP over resistance to gun laws, Colby Itkowitz, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis, May 25, 2022.
  • Washington Post, Video: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) pleads for action, May 25, 2022.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s grain blockade may require U.S. intervention, general suggests, Karoun Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli, May 26, 2022. Western officials accused Moscow of using food as a form of blackmail.

 

May 27

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uvalde victims washington post logoWashington Post, As new timeline emerges, police criticized for response, Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gunman was inside school for an hour before police killed him, officials say. Texas authorities on Thursday contradicted previous statements about how police confronted and killed the gunman.

Everyone was being told to stand back.

Desperate parents gathering outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., were ordered by police to move away as they begged officers in tactical gear to go inside after a gunman. Some tried to rush in themselves; one man was pinned to the ground by officers, video recorded at the scene shows, and a witness told The Washington Post that a woman was handcuffed.

In bursts of chatter on an open radio channel on Tuesday, local ambulance drivers were directed to reports of injuries at a dangerous situation at the school, but cautioned to give law enforcement space to do their job. “Please, just stay back,” a voice told them. “I’ll call you guys up one at a time if we need you.”

But even as police from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, an hour passed before a heavily armed tactical team entered a 4th grade classroom and killed 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, according to video and information provided for the first time Thursday by public officials. By then, the gunman had fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others — America’s deadliest school massacre in almost a decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Uvalde’s elected officials have voted on gun laws, Amber Phillips, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The town of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, is represented by a range of politicians. It is rural, largely Hispanic and encompassed by political districts that lean conservative, but not by much.

Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. Uvalde, though, has elected politicians with a mix of views on the issue — including a Democratic state legislator who regularly votes with Republicans to loosen gun laws, and a top Republican senator who has sought compromise with Democrats in Washington on background checks. On Wednesday, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin (R), cursed out Beto O’Rourke when the Democrat interrupted a news conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the shooting. McLaughlin accused O’Rourke (who is trying to unseat Abbott) of exploiting grieving families for political gain.

Here’s a rundown of how the politicians who represent Uvalde have loosened or tried to strengthen recent gun control laws:

Gov. Greg Abbott (R): The governor of Texas is one of the most pro-gun politicians in America. Last year he pushed for and signed into law a permitless carry bill, making it so almost anyone over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without a license. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that it was "an expansion of gun rights so divisive Republican leaders in previous years refused to touch it.”

Just two years earlier, Texas was the site of two particularly horrific mass shootings — including a racially-motivated one in an El Paso grocery store — and Abbott and top Texas Republicans said they were willing to make changes to gun laws to keep them away from criminals.

But while Abbott signed a few measures — such as standing up an active shooter alert system and making it a state crime to lie on a background check form to buy a gun — Republicans defeated most of the other bills proposed by Democrats. He signed other measures easing restrictions on guns and making Texas a “sanctuary” state for the Second Amendment.

 

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for New York Times).

Key Locations in the Texas Elementary School Shooting. Sources: Video footage, the local police and a former student familiar with the layout of the school (By Larry Buchanan, Keith Collins, Taylor Johnston, Eleanor Lutz and Albert Sun for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Details of Massacre Emerge as Families Grieve, Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The police released details about the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, but questions remained about the gunman’s actions and his motive.

Families in the tight-knit town continued to mourn their lost children on what would have been the last day of classes before summer break. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Days After Massacre at Uvalde School, N.R.A. Gathers in Texas, Glenn Thrush, May 27, 2022. Former President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are expected to speak at an annual National Rifle Association convention in Houston today.

nra logo CustomThe governor of Texas won’t appear in person at the N.R.A.’s convention.  In Uvalde, Texas, grief after the deadly school shooting has mixed with a sense of deep unease about a police response that many parents say was sluggish and ineffective. In Washington, Republicans in the Senate expressed a willingness to negotiate a long-shot bipartisan gun deal on a modest expansion of background checks.

But Houston is also likely to be closely watched over the weekend as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention begins there on Friday.

In years past, the conclave has taken on the tenor of a gun-rights rally. This one was planned months ago, but its timing puts it in the spotlight. Follow updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Destruction in Ukraine’s East as Civilian Toll Rises, Megan Specia, Andrew E. Kramer and Victoria Kim, May 27, 2022. As Russia made gains in eastern Ukraine, including seizing the city of Lyman, the devastation in the region has widened a civilian crisis. Here’s the latest.

Russian forces’ capturing of Lyman made it the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. As civilian deaths and suffering mounted, a new report by international legal scholars and rights experts cited a “genocidal pattern” by Russia’s military.

And the strikes continued to exact a daily toll on Friday. In Dnipro, in east-central Ukraine, an official said that at least 10 people had been killed and at least 30 injured in early morning shelling in the city. He said a missile launched from Russia’s Rostov region had hit a Ukrainian National Guard facility.

Russian and Ukrainian officials confirmed on Friday that Russian forces had captured Lyman, the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands this week. Lyman’s fall followed intense artillery bombardments, including from one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s conventional arsenal: fuel-air bombs that set off huge, destructive shock waves. And while the weapons’ use highlighted the pyrrhic victories Russia’s military has achieved in its scaled-down objectives in Ukraine’s east, its capturing of Lyman also showed its ability to gain ground using creeping advances.

The ripple effects of the war are also reaching out much farther than Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Grain shortages prompted by Ukraine’s inability to ship out its harvests amid a Russian blockade are increasing fears of a global food crisis, and Ukrainian officials continue to raise the alarm about the harm to civilians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned in an overnight address that Russian forces were trying to turn cities and towns in the east of the country “to ashes.” With civilians also being killed at an alarming rate, he charged that the actions amounted to “an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.”

A new report from international legal scholars released on Friday echoed such claims about the war generally. It said that mass killings, deliberate attacks on shelters or evacuation routes, and the indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas by Russian forces established a “genocidal pattern” indicating an intent to wipe out a substantial part of the Ukrainian population.

In other developments:

  • Several neighborhoods in Kharkiv, the northeastern city where the Ukrainians repelled an attempted Russian encirclement in mid-May, came under fire on Thursday, with at least nine people killed. It shattered a sense of relative peace that had begun returning to the country’s second-largest city.
  • Mr. Zelensky expressed frustration that the European Union had yet to approve a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that would include an oil embargo.
  • The Biden administration said it expected Russia to default on its bond payments to U.S. investors now that the Treasury Department has allowed to lapse a sanctions exemption that permitted Russia to make those payments.

European Union leaders will gather in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the war in Ukraine, focusing on the country’s financial needs for reconstruction the effect the war is having on energy and global food prices, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said in his customary pre-meeting invitation letter. They’ll be joined by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine via videolink on Monday.

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. won’t charge FBI agents accused of botching Larry Nassar case, Devlin Barrett, May 26, 2022. Two former FBI agents accused of mishandling sex-abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (shown below in court with an attorney) will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

In a statement, officials said that after a “careful re-review of evidence,” the department “is adhering to its prior decision not to bring federal criminal charges,” adding: “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”

FBI logoJohn Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the decision “incomprehensible” and said the FBI agents “violated their oaths of office and colluded in the cover up of the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.” He said the timing of the announcement — shortly before a holiday weekend, and during coverage of a school shooting — “is one more cynical attempt by the [Justice Department] to cover up FBI complicity” in the Nassar scandal.

The decision marks the third time that federal prosecutors examined whether a senior FBI official and a case agent should be charged with lying about their work on the Nassar case. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco opened the review after several world-famous gymnasts in September gave tearful testimony to Congress, describing in horrifying detail the abuse they endured and their incredulity over the FBI’s decision not to further investigate Nassar after the allegations against him first surfaced.

Monaco, in announcing the review, said officials would look again at the issue because new evidence had surfaced. Though she did not specify what that evidence was, lawmakers have sharply criticized the Justice Department for not pursuing charges after the agency’s inspector general concluded a supervisory agent and his boss lied to internal investigators in a bid to cover up their failures.

It is rare for the Justice Department even to consider reopening a case that was closed without charges. One of the Nassar agents retired years ago and the other was fired last summer in the wake of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report, which found major missteps in the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar in 2015 that allowed him to victimize more patients before he was arrested by state authorities the following year.

In its statement, the Justice Department said it will “continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” and said it wanted to work with Congress to address unspecified gaps in the law to “help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable.”

richard blumenthal portraitSens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), left, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called the decision “infuriating.” In a joint statement, they said: "FBI agents who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse, did nothing, and then lied about it will face no legal consequences for their actions. Dozens of athletes would have been spared unimaginable abuse if these agents had just done their jobs. Their actions demand accountability.”

Simone Biles, below left, and three other high-profile gymnasts (Mykala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, shown below left to right in a pool photo by Saul Loeb of AFP on Sept. 15, 2021) gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year about Nassar’s abuse and the FBI’s failure to act.

simone biles mykala maroney aly raisman maggie nichols saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21

More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child-pornography charges, and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

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U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, Hannah Thacker, John Muyskens and Monica Ulmanu, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.

The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.

Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized.

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day.

The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever, Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The organization is embroiled in lawsuits and infighting. Nevertheless, the potency of gun rights as a motivating issue for Republican voters and politicians has only intensified.

nra logo CustomNearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hard-line messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and that all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless. The NRA, which will host former president Donald Trump at its annual convention Friday in Houston, has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz storms off after being asked why mass shootings happen ‘only in America,’ Timothy Bella, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, In first test after Uvalde, Senate GOP blocks domestic terror bill, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The White House announced that President Biden will travel to Uvalde, Tex., with the first lady Sunday to meet and grieve with the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting there. More details on the travel are to come. The president has no public events on his schedule Thursday.

The White House also announced Thursday that the superstar K-pop group BTS will join Biden at the White House next week to help put a spotlight on anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which became more prevalent starting early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, before leaving town for a Memorial Day recess, Senate Republicans blocked legislation intended to combat domestic terrorism. Democrats pitched the bill as Congress’s first opportunity to pass legislation responding to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo. Republicans argued that the bill, which would set up domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, was unnecessary and that Democrats are trying to score political points.
Washington Post, They played basketball and soccer. They made honor roll. They danced with their siblings, Staff Report, May 26, 2022. The fourth-graders were 9 and 10 years old. They were preparing for summer break. Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Carnage Occurred in Single Classroom at Texas School, Edgar Sandoval, Julie Bosman, J. David Goodman and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Chilling Details Emerge in Killing of 19 Children and 2 Teachers. All of the school’s dead and injured were in one classroom, an official said. The gunman, who attended school nearby, also died. Here’s the latest.

Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail on Wednesday how an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother and left her wounded at her home, drove a pickup truck that crashed at a high speed by an elementary school less than a half mile away and exchanged shots with police officers on the scene who were unable to stop him before he killed 19 children and two teachers in a massacre in a single classroom.

According to preliminary investigatory documents described by a state police official, the gunman, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, used a rifle in the killings on Tuesday, and a second, similar weapon was left in the truck outside. Mr. Ramos purchased both guns within the last week, just after his 18th birthday, the official said.

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s grain blockade may require U.S. intervention, general suggests, Karoun Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Western officials accused Moscow of using food as a form of blackmail.

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo).

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

Israel FlagThe Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lebanese spy chief says U.S. wants his help to free Americans in Syria, Sarah Dadouch, Kareem Fahim and Suzan Haidamous, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Lebanon’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he met with Biden administration officials this week to discuss ways he could help secure the release of six Americans who are being held prisoner or are missing in Syria, including Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributed to The Washington Post.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the Lebanese General Security Directorate, said in an interview that he received an invitation to the White House earlier this month to discuss the missing Americans. The invitation came a few days after President Biden met with Tice’s parents.

Ibrahim, who has helped to secure the release of several hostages in the Middle East over the past decade, has for years been involved in the effort to locate Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, as well as other missing Americans. “They wanted me to resume my effort to solve this problem,” he said, referring to his meetings this week with White House officials. “They wanted their people back, and this is their goal.”

Syria releases U.S. citizen captured while trying to visit every country in the world

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday confirmed that Ibrahim met with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “We are not going to comment on the specifics of those discussions beyond restating the fact that we have no higher priority than seeing the safe release of Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage anywhere around the world,” Price said during a news briefing.

“Of course, we talked about the case of Austin Tice yesterday, an American who has been — who has been separated from his family for nearly 10 years, who has spent a quarter of his life separated from his family,” Price said. “He is always top of mind. The other Americans who are detained in places like Iran and Russia and Afghanistan and Venezuela and elsewhere are always top of mind for us too.”

Tice disappeared when he attempted to leave the rebel-held town of Darayya, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Darayya was surrounded by government troops at the time. His family members have repeatedly said they are confident that he is alive. Syria has not publicly acknowledged holding Tice or the other Americans, including Majd Kamalmaz, a psychotherapist who went missing in 2017, and four other U.S. citizens whose families do not want publicity.

Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, on May 2, and “reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin’s long overdue return to his family,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement at the time.

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52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia Struggles to Stave Off a Return to Soviet-Era Scarcity, Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The economic cost of the invasion of Ukraine could eventually alter President Vladimir Putin’s calculus. In aviation, a lack of crucial parts could ground much of the country’s fleet and make flying a game of ‘Russian roulette.’

Stung by Western sanctions, Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes, where shortages are stirring memories of the consumer wasteland that was the Soviet Union.

While it may be able to find new purveyors for some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India, Russia is increasingly determined to make its own — returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Already, Moscow is facing serious challenges.

Unable to secure spare parts from Western airplane manufacturers, for instance, the Russian aviation sector is facing a crisis. About 80 percent of Russia’s commercial fleet consists of foreign-made planes, predominantly from Airbus and Boeing, both of which have stopped doing business with Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Northwest Florida Daily News, Gaetz family extortion attempt: Stephen Alford’s sentencing gets postponed for fifth time, Tom McLaughlin, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Sentencing for Stephen Alford, an oft-convicted felon facing up to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to extort millions from the politically powerful family of Congressman Matt Gaetz, has been pushed back to Aug. 22.

Alford was arrested in August 2021 and charged with wire fraud and attempting to prevent seizure of an electronic device. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on Nov. 21 of last year.

He was originally scheduled for sentencing Feb. 16. The date has been pushed back five times, most recently from June 1 to July 13 and then again to the August date.

Charging documents state Alford "falsely reported" to Don Gaetz, a former Florida Senate president and father of Matt Gaetz, that he could arrange a presidential pardon for the congressman in exchange for $25 million that he would use to free a former CIA agent held hostage by the Iranian government.

Alford pleads guilty:Man accused of attempting to extort millions from Gaetz family pleads guilty to wire fraud

Latest on the congressman:Gaetz called abortion rights protestors 'over-educated, under-loved.' His opponents responded.

"He would get that pardon" the congressman might need to avoid being federally indicted on sex trafficking charges, charging documents said.

matt gaetz officialMatt Gaetz, right, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been under federal investigation for more than a year based on allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz is also reportedly being looked at for obstruction of justice and having dealings with other women who received drugs and/or money in violation of prostitution and sex trafficking laws.

Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector and Gaetz associate, has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in the case and is said to be cooperating with prosecutors in the Gaetz investigation.

No charges have been filed against Gaetz, and he points to Alford's attempt to extort money from his family as evidence the allegations against him are baseless.

Politico, 2016 Clinton attorney Sussmann won't testify in his own defense at trial, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 27, 2022 (print ed.).  Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case beginning Friday morning.

politico CustomDemocratic attorney Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to the FBI about his work for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has decided not to testify in his own defense at his ongoing trial on a false-statement charge.

Prosecutors from the office of special counsel John Durham have charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when he denied that he was working for the Clinton campaign when handing over to the bureau allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia. His decision not to take the stand, revealed Thursday morning in court by Sussmann’s defense team, signals that trial will imminently come to a close and could reach jurors before the week is out.

michael sussmann perkins youngerSussmann’s defense rested its case on Thursday and jurors are expected to hear closing arguments beginning Friday morning.

The decision not to have Sussmann testify in his own defense signals a degree of confidence by the defense team in its case after almost two weeks of witnesses, evidence and arguments at U.S. District Court in Washington.

If Sussmann were to take the stand, he would have opened himself to questioning by the prosecution on a series of potential weaknesses in the defense’s case. They include a text message he sent to FBI General Counsel James Baker the night before Sussmann gave Baker data and reports on an alleged link between a Trump-related email server and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the text message, which was discovered after Sussmann was indicted last year, he told Baker he was “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company.”

Both sides in the case agreed Thursday that the only issue to go to the jury will be whether Sussmann lied at the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in Baker’s office at FBI headquarters.

 

amber heard 5 5 2022 trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Heard Describes Impact of Online Attacks: ‘I’m a Human Being,’ Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Heard, who is being sued by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for defamation, said the mockery of her previous testimony on social media had been “agonizing.”

One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.

“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”

Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.

She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.

 Washington Post, Depp-Heard trial returns to the much-discussed severed finger

Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump E.P.A. Chief Repeatedly Ordered His Drivers to Speed, Eric Lipton, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). A report validated whistle-blower allegations that Scott Pruitt forced his security detail to drive at dangerous speeds because he was running late.

Scott Pruitt, while in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration, repeatedly pressured his federal security officers to drive at excessive and sometimes dangerous speeds on routine trips, with sirens and emergency lights on, because he had a habit of running late, according to a federal report released on Thursday.

The security officers said they knew this was a violation of federal policies and “endangered public safety,” the report said. Among the incidents cited in the report was a 2017 trip in which a special agent drove Mr. Pruitt with the lights and sirens going, in the wrong direction into oncoming traffic, to pick up Mr. Pruitt’s dry cleaning, when Mr. Pruitt was late for an agency meeting.

“Can you guys use that magic button to get us through traffic?” Mr. Pruitt would ask members of his security detail, the report said. He would say “speed it up” or “we need to get there quicker,” orders that the security agents said they found “hard to disobey,” even though the lights and sirens were supposed to be used only in emergencies, it said.

Reports about this improper use of lights and sirens first became public in 2018, along with other assertions of wrongdoing by Mr. Pruitt, including first-class travel back to his home in Oklahoma on government-paid flights and improper use of government funds to build a $43,000 soundproof phone booth inside his office. They ultimately led to his resignation in July 2018.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, An inspector general in Florida dismissed a former government employee’s complaints about coronavirus data manipulation, Patricia Mazzei, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). In 2020, a former health data analyst in Florida became something of a cause célèbre when she claimed that she had been fired from her government job for refusing to suppress coronavirus data from the public.

The analyst, Rebekah D. Jones, filed a formal whistle-blower complaint and turned into a vocal critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, as the virus surged two summers ago. The monthslong saga eventually led to a criminal charge against Ms. Jones, who is accused of accessing a state computer system and downloading a file without authorization.

On Thursday, the inspector general for the Florida Department of Health, where Ms. Jones used to work, released a 27-page investigative report that found three allegations by Ms. Jones against several health officials were “unsubstantiated.” It was first reported by NBC News.

“Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, occurred,” says the report from Michael J. Bennett, the inspector general.

The report also “exonerated” officials whom Ms. Jones had accused of directing her to restrict public access to some virus data, though no criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred.

Ms. Jones had made allegations against four officials: Courtney Coppola, the former chief of staff; Shamarial Roberson, the former deputy secretary; Dr. Carina Blackmore, the director of medical and health services for the division of disease control and health protection; and Patrick “Scott” Pritchard, a biological administrator.

Rick Johnson, a lawyer for Ms. Jones, noted that the inspector general could not prove or disprove her two main allegations: that Dr. Roberson directed falsification of data and that Ms. Coppola pressured Ms. Jones to falsify coronavirus positivity rates. Ms. Jones had said she had refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to end virus lockdowns.

“Unfortunately, this neutral finding is labeled ‘unsubstantiated,’” Mr. Johnson said in an email. “But a neutral finding from DeSantis’ own team is as good as a win.”

In the months after her firing for insubordination, Ms. Jones at times claimed that Florida hid Covid death data. The inspector general’s report does not address those claims, made after Ms. Jones had left the Department of Health. Epidemiologists familiar with the state’s statistics have not found evidence of widespread problems with Florida’s numbers, despite the sometimes confusing changes in how the data was being reported.

The felony case against Ms. Jones is pending. She dropped a case she had filed against the state after police officers raided her home during their criminal investigation.

She is running for Congress as a Democrat in Florida’s First Congressional District, in the Panhandle, where the incumbent is Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Updates: White House Pushes to Get Covid Treatment Pills to More Patients, Noah Weiland, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said increased use of Paxlovid would make virus deaths “largely preventable.” Get pandemic news.

White House officials said on Thursday that they were introducing new models for distributing Paxlovid, the Covid-19 oral medication made by Pfizer, in an effort to get the treatment to more people and keep coronavirus death rates relatively low even as cases increase.

The federal government will start reimbursing a clinic in Providence, R.I., for evaluating patients who test positive and immediately prescribing Paxlovid to those eligible for it — the first of what the White House said would be a series of federally supported sites, with others set to open in New York and Illinois. Federal workers are also being sent to state-run testing sites in Minnesota, transforming them into “test-to-treat” locations, the White House said.

“Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is get to a point where Covid deaths are largely preventable, and I think we’re pretty close to there,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said in an interview Wednesday evening. “Deaths from this disease really should become increasingly rare.”

Significant obstacles persist in getting Paxlovid to everyone who could benefit from it; more than a million courses of Paxlovid purchased by the government are still available, according to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services. Because of vague eligibility guidelines that are open to broad interpretation — the medication is authorized for people 12 and older with “mild-to-moderate” Covid-19 who are at risk of severe illness — some doctors are hesitant to prescribe the pill, or require extensive consultation.

As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases each day, according to a New York Times database, about a 30 percent increase over the last two weeks. But that is believed to be a significant undercount, since Americans are increasingly relying on at-home tests and their cases are often going unreported. New deaths have been at an average of fewer than 400 a day over the past two weeks.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 27, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 530,469,195, Deaths: 6,308,131
U.S. Cases:      85,570,755, Deaths:1,030,775
Indian Cases:   43,147,530, Deaths:   524,539
Brazil Cases:   30,880,512, Deaths:    666,248

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court allows Biden climate regulations while fight continues, Robert Barnes and Anna Phillips, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Biden administration, for now, to use a higher estimate for the societal cost of rising greenhouse gases when federal agencies draft regulations.

In a one-sentence order without comment or noted dissent, the court turned aside a request from Louisiana and other Republican-led states to prevent federal agencies from using the administration’s estimate of the harm climate change causes, known as the “social cost of carbon.”

The federal government uses the estimate in all sorts of rulemaking, including new drilling permits and assessing the costs for crop losses and flood risks.

The estimates are something of a political football. After the Trump administration lowered the cost estimate from that set in the Obama administration, President Biden’s administration increased it. Republican-led states went to court.

A federal district judge in Louisiana ruled for the states and said the estimates could not be used. But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit disagreed and put the judge’s order on hold. The Supreme Court’s action Thursday keeps that ruling in place.

Appeals court rules for Biden administration in climate change suit

Louisiana’s lawyers called the estimates “a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

But the Biden administration responded that they had been used for years. It told the Supreme Court that the district judge’s ruling was wrong but also premature. The states should not be allowed to sue before an agency even implements a rule using the new cost estimates, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote, because they have not been harmed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandstorm wave sweeps Middle East, sending thousands to hospitals, Claire Parker and Kasha Patel, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Climate change and land-use practices are increasing the frequency of such storms across the region.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin Spacey Faces Sexual Assault Charges in Britain, Alex Marshall and Julia Jacobs, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Spacey, 62, faces four counts of sexual assault against three men. He cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales.

kevin spaceyThe British authorities are bringing criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, right, on four counts of sexual assault against three men, the country’s Crown Prosecution Service announced in a news release on Thursday.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s special crime division, said in the release that Mr. Spacey, 62, had “also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”

The authorization of charges followed a review of the evidence collected by London’s police force. Mr. Spacey cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales, a spokesman for the service said in a telephone interview. The spokesman declined to comment on whether the service would pursue extradition proceedings if that did not occur.

The news release said the charges concerned three complainants. The incidents dated from March 2005, August 2008 and April 2013, it added — a time when Mr. Spacey was artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London. All the incidents occurred in London, except one from 2013, which occurred in Gloucestershire, England.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Head of Louvre Is Charged in Artifact Trafficking Case, Aurelien Breeden, May 27, 2022 (print ed.). Jean-Luc Martinez, who led the museum from 2013 to 2021, was charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in an investigation into the trafficking of Egyptian antiquities.

The former president of the Louvre has been charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in connection with an investigation into Egyptian artifacts that were trafficked over the past decade, French prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who was the president and director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, was released under judicial supervision after he was charged, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s office did not provide more details about the investigation, which was first reported by Le Canard Enchaîné and Le Monde.

Under the French legal system, the charges against Mr. Martinez indicate that investigators suspect him of involvement in a crime but he may not necessarily stand trial. The charges could be dropped at any point if the police uncover new evidence. Complex legal investigations often take several years to unfold in France.

ny times logoNew York Times, Her Tennis Coach Abused Her. Could the Sport Have Prevented It? Matthew Futterman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Adrienne Jensen does not know Pam Shriver, the 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, but both say tennis needs to change its approach toward predatory coaches.

The grooming of Adrienne Jensen began with an invitation to train with a top junior tennis coach at a well-regarded tennis academy in suburban Kansas City in 2009.

To Jensen, then a promising teenage player from Iowa City who had struggled to find elite training, the offer felt like the ultimate good fortune, even if accepting it meant upending her family’s life.

Early on that fall, Jensen’s gamble seemed to be paying off as she trained with the coach, Rex Haultain, and played deeper into increasingly competitive tournaments.

“I felt like he was my ticket,” Jensen, now 27 and about to begin a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, said in a recent interview.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 26

Top Headlines

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion


U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


Top Stories

uvalde victims washington post logoWashington Post, As new timeline emerges, police criticized for response, Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman, May 26, 2022. Gunman was inside school for an hour before police killed him, officials say. Texas authorities on Thursday contradicted previous statements about how police confronted and killed the gunman.

Everyone was being told to stand back.

Desperate parents gathering outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., were ordered by police to move away as they begged officers in tactical gear to go inside after a gunman. Some tried to rush in themselves; one man was pinned to the ground by officers, video recorded at the scene shows, and a witness told The Washington Post that a woman was handcuffed.

In bursts of chatter on an open radio channel on Tuesday, local ambulance drivers were directed to reports of injuries at a dangerous situation at the school, but cautioned to give law enforcement space to do their job. “Please, just stay back,” a voice told them. “I’ll call you guys up one at a time if we need you.”

But even as police from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, an hour passed before a heavily armed tactical team entered a 4th grade classroom and killed 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, according to video and information provided for the first time Thursday by public officials. By then, the gunman had fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others — America’s deadliest school massacre in almost a decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Uvalde’s elected officials have voted on gun laws, Amber Phillips, May 26, 2022. The town of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, is represented by a range of politicians. It is rural, largely Hispanic and encompassed by political districts that lean conservative, but not by much.

Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. Uvalde, though, has elected politicians with a mix of views on the issue — including a Democratic state legislator who regularly votes with Republicans to loosen gun laws, and a top Republican senator who has sought compromise with Democrats in Washington on background checks. On Wednesday, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin (R), cursed out Beto O’Rourke when the Democrat interrupted a news conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the shooting. McLaughlin accused O’Rourke (who is trying to unseat Abbott) of exploiting grieving families for political gain.

Here’s a rundown of how the politicians who represent Uvalde have loosened or tried to strengthen recent gun control laws:

Gov. Greg Abbott (R): The governor of Texas is one of the most pro-gun politicians in America. Last year he pushed for and signed into law a permitless carry bill, making it so almost anyone over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without a license. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that it was "an expansion of gun rights so divisive Republican leaders in previous years refused to touch it.”

Just two years earlier, Texas was the site of two particularly horrific mass shootings — including a racially-motivated one in an El Paso grocery store — and Abbott and top Texas Republicans said they were willing to make changes to gun laws to keep them away from criminals.

But while Abbott signed a few measures — such as standing up an active shooter alert system and making it a state crime to lie on a background check form to buy a gun — Republicans defeated most of the other bills proposed by Democrats. He signed other measures easing restrictions on guns and making Texas a “sanctuary” state for the Second Amendment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Details of Massacre Emerge as Families Grieve, Victoria Kim, May 26, 2022. The police released details about the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, but questions remained about the gunman’s actions and his motive.

Families in the tight-knit town continued to mourn their lost children on what would have been the last day of classes before summer break. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman was bullied as a child, grew increasingly violent, friends say, Robert Klemko, Silvia Foster-Frau and Shawn Boburg, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Relatives, classmates describe fraught relationship with mother and a troubling pattern of acting out.

The gunman in Tuesday’s elementary school massacre was a lonely 18-year-old who was bullied over a childhood speech impediment, suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years, friends and relatives said.

Using weapons purchased this month, days after his 18th birthday, authorities said, Salvador Rolando Ramos shot and critically wounded his grandmother. He then went on a shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School near his home in Uvalde, Tex., killing at least 19 children and two adults and injuring others.

Ramos also was fatally shot, apparently by police. The Texas Department of Public Safety said he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle.

Santos Valdez Jr., 18, said he has known Ramos since early elementary school. They were friends, he said, until Ramos’s behavior started to deteriorate.

They used to play video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. But then Ramos changed. Once, Valdez said, Ramos pulled up to a park where they often played basketball and had cuts all over his face. He first said a cat had scratched his face.

“Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,” Valdez said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, bro, why would you do that?’”

Ramos said he did it for fun, Valdez recalled.

In middle school and junior high, Ramos was bullied for having a stutter and a strong lisp, friends and family said.

Stephen Garcia, who considered himself Ramos’s best friend in eighth grade, said Ramos didn’t have it easy in school. “He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” Garcia said. “Over social media, over gaming, over everything.”

Garcia said he tried to stand up for him. But when Garcia and his mother relocated to another part of Texas for her job, “he just started being a different person,” Garcia said. “He kept getting worse and worse, and I don’t even know.”

When Garcia left, Ramos dropped out of school. He started wearing all black, Garcia said, and large military boots. He grew his hair out long.

He missed long periods of high school, classmates said, and was not on track to graduate with them this year.

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Said to Have Reacted Approvingly to Jan. 6 Chants About Hanging Pence, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol assault has heard accounts of Donald Trump’s remarks, mike pence leftincluding about Mike Pence, as he watched the riot unfold.

Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president, left, was being whisked to safety.

Mark MeadowsMr. Meadows, right, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.

It is not clear what tone Mr. Trump was said to have used. But the reported remark was further evidence of how extreme the rupture between the president and his vice president had become, and of how Mr. Trump not only failed to take action to call off the rioters but appeared to identify with their sentiments about Mr. Pence — whom he had unsuccessfully pressured to block certification of the Electoral College results that day — as a reflection of his own frustration at being unable to reverse his loss.

The account of Mr. Trump’s comment was initially provided to the House committee by at least one witness, according to two people briefed on their work, as the panel develops a timeline of what the president was doing during the riot.

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Inquiry Into Alternate Electors Focuses on Trump Lawyers, Alan Feuer, Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). In recent subpoenas, prosecutors investigating alternate slates of electors sought information about Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and others.

The Justice Department has stepped up its criminal investigation into the creation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 election, with a particular focus on a team of lawyers that worked on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

A federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas in recent weeks to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers including Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and one of his chief legal advisers, John Eastman, one of the people said.

The subpoenas also seek information on other pro-Trump lawyers like Jenna Ellis, who worked with Mr. Giuliani, and Kenneth Chesebro, who wrote memos supporting the elector scheme in the weeks after the election.

A top Justice Department official acknowledged in January that prosecutors were trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the scheme.

Under the plan, election officials in seven key swing states put forward formal lists of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College on the grounds that the states would be shown to have swung in favor of Mr. Trump once their claims of widespread election fraud had been accepted. Those claims were baseless, and all seven states were awarded to Mr. Biden.

It is a federal crime to knowingly submit false statements to a federal agency or agent for an undue end. The alternate elector slates were filed with a handful of government bodies, including the National Archives.

The focus on the alternate electors is only one of the efforts by the Justice Department to broaden its vast investigation of hundreds of rioters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

Probes Into U.S. Politics, Security, Religion 

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Shed Light on Secret U.S. Plans for Apocalyptic Scenarios, Charlie Savage, May 26, 2022. Dating back to 1950s preparations for nuclear war and revised after the Sept. 11 attacks, the presidential directives are not shown to Congress.

Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios — like the aftermath of a nuclear attack — when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.

Until now, public knowledge of what the government put into those classified directives, which invoke emergency and wartime powers granted by Congress or otherwise claimed by presidents, has been limited to declassified descriptions of those developed in the early Cold War. In that era, they included steps like imposing martial law, rounding up people deemed dangerous and censoring news from abroad.

It has not been clear what is in the modern directives — known as presidential emergency action documents — because under administrations of both parties, none have been made public or shown to Congress. But the newly disclosed documents, which relate to the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to revise the draft orders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offer clues.

Several of the files, provided to The New York Times by the Brennan Center for Justice, show that the Bush-era effort partly focused on a law that permits the president to take over or shut down communications networks in wartime. That suggests the government may have developed or revised such an order in light of the explosive growth in the 1990s of the consumer internet.

Underscoring how little lawmakers and the public can infer, another file, from the summer of 2008, mentioned that Justice Department lawyers were revising an unidentified draft order in light of a recent Supreme Court opinion. The memo does not specify the ruling, but the court had just issued landmark decisions on topics that could relate to government actions in an emergency — one about gun rights in the United States and another about the rights of Guantánamo detainees to court hearings.

“The bottom line is that these documents leave no doubt that the post-9/11 emergency actions documents have direct and significant implications for Americans’ civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And yet, there is no oversight by Congress. And that’s unacceptable.”

Even though it is unclear how the directives have evolved since the later stages of the Cold War, Ms. Goitein said they have likely expanded to include other scenarios beyond a devastating nuclear attack. The documents show that later versions extended from one category to seven, although their topics remain secret, and fall within the jurisdiction of agencies with different areas of focus.

The newly disclosed documents show that there were 48 of the directives when the Bush administration took office; by 2008, that number had grown to 56. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in reviewing and “clearing” the orders. The documents do not indicate any consultation with Congress.

Several Bush administration officials whose names were mentioned in the documents, speaking on background to discuss matters that remain classified, portrayed the effort as bureaucratic “good housekeeping.” It seemed prudent as the government reoriented to focus on national security after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Signal Refusal of Jan. 6 Subpoenas, Setting Up a Showdown, Luke Broadwater, May 26, 2022. The decision by the four Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, not to comply had broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled on Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation ahead of the depositions scheduled for this week, and Mr. McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.

“For House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate in this po­lit­i­cal stunt would change the House for­ever,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Mr. Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”

The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.

Mr. Perry, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with Mr. McCarthy and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.

CNN earlier reported that Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.

The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Mr. Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Mr. Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.

Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.

“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Mr. Jordan wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee.

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, Hannah Thacker, John Muyskens and Monica Ulmanu, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.

The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.

Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized.

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day.

The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever, Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig, May 26, 2022.  The organization is embroiled in lawsuits and infighting. Nevertheless, the potency of gun rights as a motivating issue for Republican voters and politicians has only intensified.

Nearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hard-line messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and that all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless. The NRA, which will host former president Donald Trump at its annual convention Friday in Houston, has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz storms off after being asked why mass shootings happen ‘only in America,’ Timothy Bella, May 26, 2022.  As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.”

Cruz joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other local and state leaders at a vigil for the 19 children and two adults killed in the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Cruz, who is among the Republicans vehemently opposed to proposals from Democrats on expanding background checks on gun sales, has called for increased safety in schools and has condemned “political posturing” in the aftermath of the attack. He is also the lawmaker whose campaigns or political action committees have accepted the most money from the gun rights lobby, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz, who was seen hugging and meeting with those at the vigil, was asked whether this was the moment to reform gun laws. Cruz responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

“But it’s important, it’s at the heart of the issue,” Stone replied, according to a video of the interview viewed more than 1 million times as of Thursday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, In first test after Uvalde, Senate GOP blocks domestic terror bill, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 26, 2022.
Today, the White House announced that President Biden will travel to Uvalde, Tex., with the first lady Sunday to meet and grieve with the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting there. More details on the travel are to come. The president has no public events on his schedule Thursday.

The White House also announced Thursday that the superstar K-pop group BTS will join Biden at the White House next week to help put a spotlight on anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which became more prevalent starting early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, before leaving town for a Memorial Day recess, Senate Republicans blocked legislation intended to combat domestic terrorism. Democrats pitched the bill as Congress’s first opportunity to pass legislation responding to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo. Republicans argued that the bill, which would set up domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, was unnecessary and that Democrats are trying to score political points.
Washington Post, They played basketball and soccer. They made honor roll. They danced with their siblings, Staff Report, May 26, 2022. The fourth-graders were 9 and 10 years old. They were preparing for summer break. Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Carnage Occurred in Single Classroom at Texas School, Edgar Sandoval, Julie Bosman, J. David Goodman and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Chilling Details Emerge in Killing of 19 Children and 2 Teachers. All of the school’s dead and injured were in one classroom, an official said. The gunman, who attended school nearby, also died. Here’s the latest.

Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail on Wednesday how an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother and left her wounded at her home, drove a pickup truck that crashed at a high speed by an elementary school less than a half mile away and exchanged shots with police officers on the scene who were unable to stop him before he killed 19 children and two teachers in a massacre in a single classroom.

According to preliminary investigatory documents described by a state police official, the gunman, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, used a rifle in the killings on Tuesday, and a second, similar weapon was left in the truck outside. Mr. Ramos purchased both guns within the last week, just after his 18th birthday, the official said.

beto orourke 5 24 2022 texas gregg abbott

Politico, 'You are doing nothing': O'Rourke accosts Abbott at press conference on shooting, Kelly Hooper, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). O'Rourke, with back to camera, was escorted out of the event by security. 

politico CustomTexas Democrat Beto O’Rourke confronted Gov. Greg Abbott (seated above at center) at a press conference on Wednesday, accusing the governor of inaction on gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

Abbott, flanked by law enforcement officers and fellow Republican lawmakers, had just wrapped up giving an update on the Uvalde, Texas, shooting Wednesday afternoon — in which he said mental health was the root cause of the deadly event — when O’Rourke approached the stage.

“Governor Abbott, I have to say something,” O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Abbott in November’s midterm elections, said. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.”

The totality of O’Rourke’s remarks were difficult to hear as he was shouted down by those on stage who were speaking into microphones. Among those attempting to speak over O’Rourke was Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, who told the former El Paso congressman to “sit down” and that he was “an embarrassment.”
O'Rourke talks to reporters after being ejected from Texas school shooting presser

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, standing behind Abbott, shouted at O’Rourke, “I can’t believe you’re a sick son of a b---- that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.”

When O’Rourke yelled toward the stage, “It’s on you,” McLaughlin replied: “It’s on assholes like you. Why don’t you get out of here.”

O’Rourke was escorted out of the event by security.

His outburst seemed to channel the nationwide outrage from advocates for stricter gun laws that has followed Tuesday’s shooting. That attack has prompted Democrats in Washington to relaunch efforts to enact gun restrictions despite widespread skepticism within the caucus that such legislation has any realistic chance of winning enough Republican support to pass.

O’Rourke continued his remarks outside of the event. He railed against Abbott for not funding mental health care services for Texans and for not expanding Medicaid, which could in turn expand mental health care access.

He further slammed the Republican for his opposition to red-flag laws, safe storage laws and bans on assault-style weapons.

“This 18-year-old, who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them. Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state, year after year, city after city?” O’Rourke shouted. “This is on all of us if we do not do something, and I am going to do something. I’m not alone.”

washington post logoWashington Post, What we know about the victims so far, Moriah Balingit, Beth Reinhard, María Luisa Paúl, Holly Bailey and Karina Elwood, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). A veteran educator, a jubilant 10-year-old and a fourth-grader who had just made the honor roll were among the dead.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Uvalde, Buffalo and the Semiautomatic Weapons That Terrorize Us, Mary B. McCord, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. McCord, the executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, was the acting assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration.

Within the past two weeks, the country saw the two deadliest mass shootings of the year, both committed by 18-year-olds. The motive for Tuesday’s attack on elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas, is still unknown. But the motive for the Buffalo attack appears clear from the online screed left by the accused attacker. Influenced by the “great replacement” theory, he sought to kill as many Black people as he could. Ten died.

This is terrorism by definition: the use of violence to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence government policy. In the United States, it is often accomplished using semiautomatic weapons.

Permissive gun laws and easy access to firearms make the United States a prime target for firearms-based terrorist attacks like the one in Buffalo. They subject the population to the constant threat of mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were fatally shot. Whether that shooting ultimately meets the statutory definition of terrorism or not, it certainly has terrified people nationwide, raising fears yet again that children are at risk, even in their schools, from a violence abetted by the ready availability of semiautomatic weapons.

In Buffalo, the shooter was armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle. Officials have yet to say if the Texas shooter used a semiautomatic weapon or weapons; news media have reported that he bought two of them for his recent 18th birthday.

Along with dozens of former national security and law enforcement officials, I warned about the dangers of “unfettered access to firearms” in a brief filed with the Supreme Court in the latest gun case to come before the justices, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

That pending case concerns restrictions on carrying concealed firearms. But whether the gun is concealed or not, there is no question that the ready availability of guns in the United States challenges not only public safety but also national security. The United States must treat the easy access to semiautomatic weapons as the national security threat it is.

Foreign terrorist organizations have long urged their followers to take advantage of lax U.S. gun laws to plan attacks in the United States.

In 2017 an Islamic State propaganda video featured a reportedly American fighter, wearing fatigues and a holstered pistol, urging sympathizers in the United States to “take advantage of the fact that you can easily obtain a rifle or a pistol in America” and “spray” the infidels “with bullets.” A prominent American Al Qaeda recruit urged potential recruits in a 2011 video to “go down to a gun show at a local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?” The people who killed 14 in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 and 49 in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 — and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State — committed their carnage using semiautomatic firearms.

As the attacks make clear, these types of military-style weapons are not used only by those who commit mass shootings in the name of foreign terrorist groups.

The person accused of the Buffalo shooting got out of his vehicle in front of the Tops supermarket looking as if he were entering a war zone. He wore body armor, tactical gear and a helmet. He carried a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle, modified to hold high-capacity magazines. He had a shotgun and a rifle in his car for backup.

But he didn’t need the backup weapons to quickly shoot four people in the parking lot, killing three of them. He didn’t need them to kill a security guard inside the store whose own firearm was no match for the body armor. Nor did he need them to shoot several other people inside the store. The semiautomatic assault-style rifle, reportedly purchased at a small gun store for less than $1,000, was all he needed to commit his massacre.

  • Washington Post, Anger, anguish among Parkland and Newtown families after Texas shooting, John Woodrow Cox, May 25, 2022.
  • Washington Post, ‘What are we doing?’: Democrats assail GOP over resistance to gun laws, Colby Itkowitz, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis, May 25, 2022.
  • Washington Post, Video: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) pleads for action, May 25, 2022.

 Recent Shooting Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s grain blockade may require U.S. intervention, general suggests, Karoun Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli, May 26, 2022. Western officials accused Moscow of using food as a form of blackmail.

 

May 26

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 26, 2022. The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo).

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

Israel FlagThe Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lebanese spy chief says U.S. wants his help to free Americans in Syria, Sarah Dadouch, Kareem Fahim and Suzan Haidamous, May 26, 2022. Lebanon’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he met with Biden administration officials this week to discuss ways he could help secure the release of six Americans who are being held prisoner or are missing in Syria, including Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributed to The Washington Post.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the Lebanese General Security Directorate, said in an interview that he received an invitation to the White House earlier this month to discuss the missing Americans. The invitation came a few days after President Biden met with Tice’s parents.

Ibrahim, who has helped to secure the release of several hostages in the Middle East over the past decade, has for years been involved in the effort to locate Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, as well as other missing Americans. “They wanted me to resume my effort to solve this problem,” he said, referring to his meetings this week with White House officials. “They wanted their people back, and this is their goal.”

Syria releases U.S. citizen captured while trying to visit every country in the world

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday confirmed that Ibrahim met with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “We are not going to comment on the specifics of those discussions beyond restating the fact that we have no higher priority than seeing the safe release of Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage anywhere around the world,” Price said during a news briefing.

“Of course, we talked about the case of Austin Tice yesterday, an American who has been — who has been separated from his family for nearly 10 years, who has spent a quarter of his life separated from his family,” Price said. “He is always top of mind. The other Americans who are detained in places like Iran and Russia and Afghanistan and Venezuela and elsewhere are always top of mind for us too.”

Tice disappeared when he attempted to leave the rebel-held town of Darayya, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Darayya was surrounded by government troops at the time. His family members have repeatedly said they are confident that he is alive. Syria has not publicly acknowledged holding Tice or the other Americans, including Majd Kamalmaz, a psychotherapist who went missing in 2017, and four other U.S. citizens whose families do not want publicity.

Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, on May 2, and “reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin’s long overdue return to his family,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement at the time.

ny times logoNew York Times, Citing the war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary declared a state of emergency to expand his power, Benjamin Novak, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Fresh from an election victory last month, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has declared a “state of emergency” in the country, using the war in Ukraine as a pretext to further entrench his power.

Before the announcement on Tuesday, Mr. Orban, a right-wing populist with ties to Russia’s president, had cited the conflict in Ukraine as a justification for the expanded executive emergency powers, which allow him to bypass Hungary’s legislative process and rule by decree.

The emergency powers, he said, would enable him to respond swiftly to pressing challenges spurred by the war such as ensuring the safety of Hungarians and confronting economic hurdles. European Union sanctions against Russia had disrupted the Hungarian economy, he said, causing prices to rise and endangering the country’s energy supplies.

“This war poses a constant threat to Hungary,” Mr. Orban said Tuesday on Facebook.

The state of emergency is Mr. Orban’s first big policy move since forming his latest government this week — he has been elected a total of five times, and has won the last four consecutive elections. His far-right party, which holds a constitutional supermajority in parliament, amended the constitution to give the declaration legal footing hours before the announcement was made.

The invocation of emergency powers will not change much in practical terms, analysts said. Mr. Orban was already governing by decree after invoking a similar state of emergency in 2020, citing the pandemic. But the analysts said the new measure would nevertheless give him a broader scope for tightening his hold on the levers of power.

Mr. Orban made his name during the turbulent days of 1989 when, as an opposition leader, he called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, channeling the aspirations of a region.

Since returning to political power in 2010, however, he has broken with his country’s long wariness of Russian hegemony, forging closer ties with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and leaning heavily on Russian energy resources.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens of Migrants Die After Boat Sinks Off Tunisian Coast, Emma Bubola, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The vessel, which had left from a Libyan port city and was most likely bound for Italy, carried about 100 people. Seventy-six were presumed dead.

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 26, 2022. The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

The Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Tells Americans It Killed Iranian Officer, Official Says, Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). At the funeral in Tehran for a colonel in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, thousands of mourners packed the streets around the cemetery chanting “Death to Israel” and calling for revenge for his killing.

The commanders of the Guards and the Quds Force — the powerful unit within the Guards responsible for operations outside Iran’s borders — were both in attendance, hinting at the colonel’s importance.

Col. Sayad Khodayee, 50, was fatally shot outside his home on a quiet residential street in Tehran on Sunday when two gunmen on motorcycles approached his car and fired five bullets into it, according to state media. Iran has blamed Israel for the killing, which bore the hallmarks of other Israeli targeted killings of Iranians in a shadow war that has been playing out for years on land, sea, air and in cyberspace.

“We will make the enemy regret this and none of the enemy’s evil actions will go unanswered,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said in a speech on Monday. A member of Iran’s National Security Council, Majid Mirahmadi, said the killing was “definitely the work of Israel,” and warned that harsh revenge would follow, according to Iranian media.

According to an intelligence official briefed on the communications, Israel has informed American officials that it was behind the killing. The Israelis told the Americans the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of a covert group within the Quds Force known as Unit 840, according to the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. Unit 840 is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials, according to Israeli government, military and intelligence officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Business Updates: Germany to Keep Coal Plants Ready in Case Russia Cuts Gas, Staff Report, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The power plants, due to be shut down, would be kept in reserve to provide electricity if Russia ends shipments of natural gas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Europe accepts Putin’s demands on gas payments to avoid more shut-offs, Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The European Union gives Putin a public relations victory while continuing to fund his war effort in Ukraine.

European energy companies appear to have bent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that they purchase natural gas using an elaborate new payment system, a concession that avoids more gas shut-offs and also gives Putin a public relations victory while continuing to fund his war effort in Ukraine.

The system, which involves the creation of two accounts at Gazprombank, enables Europe to say it is technically paying for natural gas in euros, while Russia can say it is receiving payment in rubles — a requirement Putin imposed on “unfriendly” nations.

Putin’s insistence on rubles may be more about forcing European countries to scramble at his behest than about shoring up his country’s currency, some economists and energy experts suspect. European Union countries have been touchy about the notion they might violate their sanctions on Russia, and questions about the arrangement tested European unity, leading to weeks of chaos and contradictory guidance from Brussels. It also got countries talking about how much they still need Russian gas, even as they debate a Russian oil embargo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Report blames government leadership for boozy parties at U.K. prime minister’s residence, William Booth and Karla Adam, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). A long-awaited report by a senior civil servant concluded that senior leadership in the British government was to blame for lockdown-breaking parties in and around Downing Street.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s final report into a dozen boozy gatherings at government buildings during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 was published on Wednesday. “Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” Gray said in the report.

  • Washington Post, Uyghur abuse files go public as U.N. rights chief visits China’s Xinijang region, Lily Kuo and Cate Cadell, May 25, 2022.

 Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu defended the slow pace of military operations, saying it was done deliberately to allow civilians to evacuate. (Ukrainian prosecutors say they have launched 13,000 investigations into possible cases of Russian war crimes against civilians.) Zelensky on Tuesday mocked the Kremlin’s explanation: “After three months of searching for an explanation why they failed to break Ukraine in three days, they came up with nothing better than to claim that they had allegedly planned to do so.”

Swedish and Finnish delegations are in Turkey to discuss their bids to join NATO, hoping to assuage Ankara’s concerns after the influential member of the defense alliance released a list Monday of assurances it wants from Sweden for the NATO accession process to move forward. Meanwhile, the European Union is still trying to overcome opposition from Hungary to a deal on an embargo on Russian oil.

Here’s what else to know

  • The British Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has left “significant supplies of Ukrainian grain” stranded and “unable to be exported,” as fears grow that the war in Ukraine could spark a global food crisis.
  • Ukrainian prosecutors charged five Russian service members and three mercenaries with the murder of a Kyiv suburb mayor.
  • U.S. financial institutions will no longer be permitted to accept bond payments from Russia, after the Treasury Department said it would let a sanctions waiver expire Wednesday.
  • The British government approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club after sanctions were placed on the London-based club’s longtime owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Ukraine Updates: Russia Struggles to Stave Off a Return to Soviet-Era Scarcity, May 26, 2022. The economic cost of the invasion of Ukraine could eventually alter President Vladimir Putin’s calculus. Get updates on the war.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. won’t charge FBI agents accused of botching Larry Nassar case, Devlin Barrett, May 26, 2022. The agents accused of bungling the investigation of sex abuse by the former USA Gymnastics doctor will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department has decided. Two former FBI agents accused of mishandling sex-abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will not be charged with a crime, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

In a statement, officials said that after a “careful re-review of evidence,” the department “is adhering to its prior decision not to bring federal criminal charges,” adding: “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”

John Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the decision “incomprehensible” and said the FBI agents “violated their oaths of office and colluded in the cover up of the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.” He said the timing of the announcement — shortly before a holiday weekend, and during coverage of a school shooting — “is one more cynical attempt by the [Justice Department] to cover up FBI complicity” in the Nassar scandal.

The decision marks the third time that federal prosecutors examined whether a senior FBI official and a case agent should be charged with lying about their work on the Nassar case. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco opened the review after several world-famous gymnasts in September gave tearful testimony to Congress, describing in horrifying detail the abuse they endured and their incredulity over the FBI’s decision not to further investigate Nassar after the allegations against him first surfaced.

Monaco, in announcing the review, said officials would look again at the issue because new evidence had surfaced. Though she did not specify what that evidence was, lawmakers have sharply criticized the Justice Department for not pursuing charges after the agency’s inspector general concluded a supervisory agent and his boss lied to internal investigators in a bid to cover up their failures.

Nassar spent thousands on himself in prison while paying little to his victims

It is rare for the Justice Department even to consider reopening a case that was closed without charges. One of the Nassar agents retired years ago and the other was fired last summer in the wake of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report, which found major missteps in the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar in 2015 that allowed him to victimize more patients before he was arrested by state authorities the following year.

In its statement, the Justice Department said it will “continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” and said it wanted to work with Congress to address unspecified gaps in the law to “help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable.”

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called the decision “infuriating.” In a joint statement, they said: "FBI agents who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse, did nothing, and then lied about it will face no legal consequences for their actions. Dozens of athletes would have been spared unimaginable abuse if these agents had just done their jobs. Their actions demand accountability.”

Simone Biles and three other high-profile gymnasts gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year about Nassar’s abuse and the FBI’s failure to act.

More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child-pornography charges, and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Abortion Questions for Justice Alito and His Supreme Court Allies, Linda Greenhouse, May 25, 2022. Ms. Greenhouse, the winner of a 1998 Pulitzer Prize, reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008 and was a contributing Opinion writer from 2009 to 2021.

Now that the Oklahoma State Legislature has voted to ban abortion from the moment of conception, I have a few questions for Justice Samuel Alito and any others who would join him in overturning Roe v. Wade:

What is your reaction to the news from Oklahoma? The State Legislature gave final approval last Thursday to a bill that would prohibit nearly all abortions, starting at fertilization. It now awaits the signature of the governor, who has pledged to make Oklahoma “the most pro-life state in the country.”

I suppose we’ll be able to infer the answers to my questions once Justice Alito’s leaked draft opinion in the Mississippi abortion case is tidied up and properly released.

If Justice Alito and his allies care to look, they will see a future in which American women, traveling to states where abortions are still readily available, are pursued by vigilantes seeking bounties.

Justice Alito likes to invoke history — although many of the historical references in his draft opinion were misleading or downright bizarre. Has he ever heard, for instance, of the Fugitive Slave Act?

I hope my law school friends and colleagues will forgive me, but I am tired of talking about the right to abortion in terms of constitutional doctrine. I have spent years, as they have, in urgent conversation about due process and undue burdens, extrapolating from the opacities of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that against all odds reaffirmed the essence of Roe v. Wade, thanks to three Republican-appointed justices who were supposed to do the opposite.

It hasn’t worked. The current Supreme Court majority will do what it will do, which is to say what it was put there to do.

The message of the Alito draft is that the age of constitutional argument is over. There’s a case to be made that it died a long time ago, but in any event, here is my final question to the justices: What, other than raw power, will take its place?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ Writer Is Convicted of Murdering Husband, Mike Baker, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Nancy Brophy, a 71-year-old romance novelist, was accused in the shooting death of her husband. She said prosecutors had sketched a flawed plotline.

A romance novelist who wrote about “How to Murder Your Husband” was convicted in her husband’s killing on Wednesday following a contentious trial in which prosecutors leaned on a “puzzle” of circumstantial evidence to portray the author as a duplicitous spouse who spent months quietly plotting the perfect crime.

Nancy Brophy, 71, stood quietly, a pandemic mask covering her nose and mouth, as the verdict was handed down, seven weeks after the trial began in Portland, Ore.

Prosecutors had built their case with evidence showing that Ms. Brophy had acquired gun pieces in the months before the killing of her husband, Daniel Brophy, including one extra component that prosecutors said could ensure that the bullets used in the shooting would not be traced back to her gun. Prosecutors contended that Ms. Brophy shot her husband in his workplace, where there would be no cameras or witnesses, then moved to collect on lucrative life insurance policies in the days that followed.

“She had the plan in place,” Shawn Overstreet, a deputy district attorney, said in closing arguments this week. “She had the opportunity to carry out this murder. She was the only person who had the motive.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Josh Duggar Sentenced to 12 Years for Downloading Images of Child Sex Abuse, Alyssa Lukpat, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Josh Duggar, a onetime star of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” about a large family guided by conservative Christian values, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on Wednesday for downloading child sexual abuse imagery.

The sentencing, in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark., concluded Mr. Duggar’s downfall from the eldest sibling on one of the most popular cable reality shows to a convicted criminal, capping a reversal that began with his arrest in April 2021.

Prosecutors said that, in May 2019, Mr. Duggar installed a password-protected partition on the hard drive of his desktop computer at his used-car lot in Springdale, Ark., to avoid software that detects explicit images of children.

Mr. Duggar, 34, who is married with seven children, downloaded around 600 photographs and seven videos of violent child sexual abuse, according to a sentencing memorandum filed this month by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas.

He was caught after a Little Rock police detective found an I.P. address that had been sharing child sexual abuse material, according to a memorandum opinion filed by Judge Timothy L. Brooks in August 2021. The detective sent the information to an agent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who later tracked the I.P. address to Mr. Duggar, Judge Brooks wrote.

From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Duggar and his siblings starred with their parents in “19 Kids and Counting,” a reality show following the family’s life in Arkansas. TLC canceled the show after In Touch Weekly reported on a 2006 police report that said Mr. Duggar had molested several girls when he was a teenager.

Representatives for Discovery, the company that owns TLC, did not immediately return emails or phone calls on Wednesday.

Mr. Duggar was not charged in connection with those earlier allegations, for which the statute of limitations had passed. Mr. Duggar’s parents told Fox News in 2015 that four of the five girls he molested were his sisters.

 

Northwest Florida Daily News, Gaetz family extortion attempt: Stephen Alford’s sentencing gets postponed for fifth time, Tom McLaughlin, May 26, 2022. Sentencing for Stephen Alford, an oft-convicted felon facing up to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to extort millions from the politically powerful family of Congressman Matt Gaetz, has been pushed back to Aug. 22.

Alford was arrested in August 2021 and charged with wire fraud and attempting to prevent seizure of an electronic device. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on Nov. 21 of last year.

He was originally scheduled for sentencing Feb. 16. The date has been pushed back five times, most recently from June 1 to July 13 and then again to the August date.

Charging documents state Alford "falsely reported" to Don Gaetz, a former Florida Senate president and father of Matt Gaetz, that he could arrange a presidential pardon for the congressman in exchange for $25 million that he would use to free a former CIA agent held hostage by the Iranian government.

Alford pleads guilty:Man accused of attempting to extort millions from Gaetz family pleads guilty to wire fraud

Latest on the congressman:Gaetz called abortion rights protestors 'over-educated, under-loved.' His opponents responded.

"He would get that pardon" the congressman might need to avoid being federally indicted on sex trafficking charges, charging documents said.

matt gaetz officialMatt Gaetz, right, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been under federal investigation for more than a year based on allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz is also reportedly being looked at for obstruction of justice and having dealings with other women who received drugs and/or money in violation of prostitution and sex trafficking laws.

Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector and Gaetz associate, has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in the case and is said to be cooperating with prosecutors in the Gaetz investigation.

No charges have been filed against Gaetz, and he points to Alford's attempt to extort money from his family as evidence the allegations against him are baseless.

Politico, 2016 Clinton attorney Sussmann won't testify in his own defense at trial, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 26, 2022.  Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case beginning Friday morning.

politico CustomDemocratic attorney Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to the FBI about his work for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has decided not to testify in his own defense at his ongoing trial on a false-statement charge.

Prosecutors from the office of special counsel John Durham have charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when he denied that he was working for the Clinton campaign when handing over to the bureau allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia. His decision not to take the stand, revealed Thursday morning in court by Sussmann’s defense team, signals that trial will imminently come to a close and could reach jurors before the week is out.

michael sussmann perkins youngerSussmann’s defense rested its case on Thursday and jurors are expected to hear closing arguments beginning Friday morning.

The decision not to have Sussmann testify in his own defense signals a degree of confidence by the defense team in its case after almost two weeks of witnesses, evidence and arguments at U.S. District Court in Washington.

If Sussmann were to take the stand, he would have opened himself to questioning by the prosecution on a series of potential weaknesses in the defense’s case. They include a text message he sent to FBI General Counsel James Baker the night before Sussmann gave Baker data and reports on an alleged link between a Trump-related email server and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the text message, which was discovered after Sussmann was indicted last year, he told Baker he was “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company.”

Both sides in the case agreed Thursday that the only issue to go to the jury will be whether Sussmann lied at the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in Baker’s office at FBI headquarters.

 

amber heard 5 5 2022 trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Heard Describes Impact of Online Attacks: ‘I’m a Human Being,’ Julia Jacobs, May 26, 2022. Ms. Heard, who is being sued by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for defamation, said the mockery of her previous testimony on social media had been “agonizing.”

One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.

“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”

Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.

She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.

 Washington Post, Depp-Heard trial returns to the much-discussed severed finger

Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Business Updates: U.S. Budget Deficit Projected to Fall to $1 Trillion, Staff Report, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Congressional Budget Office provided an update on the path for deficits at a moment when the Federal Reserve is trying to cool the economy to tame rapid inflation. Fed officials expected to make at least three big rate increases over the next few months.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump E.P.A. Chief Repeatedly Ordered His Drivers to Speed, Eric Lipton, May 26, 2022. A report validated whistle-blower allegations that Scott Pruitt forced his security detail to drive at dangerous speeds because he was running late.

Scott Pruitt, while in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration, repeatedly pressured his federal security officers to drive at excessive and sometimes dangerous speeds on routine trips, with sirens and emergency lights on, because he had a habit of running late, according to a federal report released on Thursday.

The security officers said they knew this was a violation of federal policies and “endangered public safety,” the report said. Among the incidents cited in the report was a 2017 trip in which a special agent drove Mr. Pruitt with the lights and sirens going, in the wrong direction into oncoming traffic, to pick up Mr. Pruitt’s dry cleaning, when Mr. Pruitt was late for an agency meeting.

“Can you guys use that magic button to get us through traffic?” Mr. Pruitt would ask members of his security detail, the report said. He would say “speed it up” or “we need to get there quicker,” orders that the security agents said they found “hard to disobey,” even though the lights and sirens were supposed to be used only in emergencies, it said.

Reports about this improper use of lights and sirens first became public in 2018, along with other assertions of wrongdoing by Mr. Pruitt, including first-class travel back to his home in Oklahoma on government-paid flights and improper use of government funds to build a $43,000 soundproof phone booth inside his office. They ultimately led to his resignation in July 2018.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccines may not prevent many symptoms of long covid, study suggests, Ariana Eunjung Cha, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Veterans Affairs analyzed records from nearly 34,000 people in U.S. who experienced breakthrough infections.

A large U.S. study looking at whether vaccination protects against long covid showed the shots have only a slight protective effect: Being vaccinated appeared to reduce the risk of lung and blood clot disorders, but did little to protect against most other symptoms.

The new paper, published Wednesday in Nature Medicine, is part of a series of studies by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the impact of the coronavirus, and was based on 33,940 people who experienced breakthrough infections after vaccination.

The data confirms the large body of research that shows vaccination greatly reduces the risk of death or serious illness. But there was more ambiguity regarding long covid.

Six months after their initial diagnosis of covid, people in the study who were vaccinated had only a slightly reduced risk of getting long covid — 15 percent overall. The greatest benefit appeared to be in reducing blood clotting and lung complications. But there was no difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated when it came to longer-term risks of neurological issues, gastrointestinal symptoms, kidney failure and other conditions.

What is long covid?

“This was disappointing,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, lead author and chief of research and development service at VA Saint Louis Health Care System. “I was hoping to see that vaccines offer more protection, especially given that vaccines are our only line of defense nowadays.”

“Long covid” refers to the constellation of symptoms that many people have reported months after their initial infections. Early in the pandemic, some patients who complained of lingering symptoms were dismissed by physicians who thought the manifestations might be psychological. But the condition has since become a major concern for the medical community.

ny times logoNew York Times, An inspector general in Florida dismissed a former government employee’s complaints about coronavirus data manipulation, Patricia Mazzei, May 26, 2022. In 2020, a former health data analyst in Florida became something of a cause célèbre when she claimed that she had been fired from her government job for refusing to suppress coronavirus data from the public.

The analyst, Rebekah D. Jones, filed a formal whistle-blower complaint and turned into a vocal critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, as the virus surged two summers ago. The monthslong saga eventually led to a criminal charge against Ms. Jones, who is accused of accessing a state computer system and downloading a file without authorization.

On Thursday, the inspector general for the Florida Department of Health, where Ms. Jones used to work, released a 27-page investigative report that found three allegations by Ms. Jones against several health officials were “unsubstantiated.” It was first reported by NBC News.

“Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, occurred,” says the report from Michael J. Bennett, the inspector general.

The report also “exonerated” officials whom Ms. Jones had accused of directing her to restrict public access to some virus data, though no criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred.

Ms. Jones had made allegations against four officials: Courtney Coppola, the former chief of staff; Shamarial Roberson, the former deputy secretary; Dr. Carina Blackmore, the director of medical and health services for the division of disease control and health protection; and Patrick “Scott” Pritchard, a biological administrator.

Rick Johnson, a lawyer for Ms. Jones, noted that the inspector general could not prove or disprove her two main allegations: that Dr. Roberson directed falsification of data and that Ms. Coppola pressured Ms. Jones to falsify coronavirus positivity rates. Ms. Jones had said she had refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to end virus lockdowns.

“Unfortunately, this neutral finding is labeled ‘unsubstantiated,’” Mr. Johnson said in an email. “But a neutral finding from DeSantis’ own team is as good as a win.”

In the months after her firing for insubordination, Ms. Jones at times claimed that Florida hid Covid death data. The inspector general’s report does not address those claims, made after Ms. Jones had left the Department of Health. Epidemiologists familiar with the state’s statistics have not found evidence of widespread problems with Florida’s numbers, despite the sometimes confusing changes in how the data was being reported.

The felony case against Ms. Jones is pending. She dropped a case she had filed against the state after police officers raided her home during their criminal investigation.

She is running for Congress as a Democrat in Florida’s First Congressional District, in the Panhandle, where the incumbent is Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: White House Pushes to Get Covid Treatment Pills to More Patients, Noah Weiland, May 26, 2022. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said increased use of Paxlovid would make virus deaths “largely preventable.” Get pandemic news.

White House officials said on Thursday that they were introducing new models for distributing Paxlovid, the Covid-19 oral medication made by Pfizer, in an effort to get the treatment to more people and keep coronavirus death rates relatively low even as cases increase.

The federal government will start reimbursing a clinic in Providence, R.I., for evaluating patients who test positive and immediately prescribing Paxlovid to those eligible for it — the first of what the White House said would be a series of federally supported sites, with others set to open in New York and Illinois. Federal workers are also being sent to state-run testing sites in Minnesota, transforming them into “test-to-treat” locations, the White House said.

“Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is get to a point where Covid deaths are largely preventable, and I think we’re pretty close to there,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said in an interview Wednesday evening. “Deaths from this disease really should become increasingly rare.”

Significant obstacles persist in getting Paxlovid to everyone who could benefit from it; more than a million courses of Paxlovid purchased by the government are still available, according to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services. Because of vague eligibility guidelines that are open to broad interpretation — the medication is authorized for people 12 and older with “mild-to-moderate” Covid-19 who are at risk of severe illness — some doctors are hesitant to prescribe the pill, or require extensive consultation.

As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases each day, according to a New York Times database, about a 30 percent increase over the last two weeks. But that is believed to be a significant undercount, since Americans are increasingly relying on at-home tests and their cases are often going unreported. New deaths have been at an average of fewer than 400 a day over the past two weeks.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Anti-Vaccine Movement’s New Frontier, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). A wave of parents has been radicalized by Covid-era misinformation to reject ordinary childhood immunizations — with potentially lethal consequences. The strategy to contain the Omicron variant risks increasing economic stress and further trying people’s patience. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

The mother of four brought her children, ranging in age from grade school to high school, to the doctor’s office last summer for their annual checkup. When their pediatrician, Robert Froehlke, said that it was time for shots and several boosters and then mentioned the Covid vaccine, her reaction stunned him. “I’m not going to kill my children,” Froehlke recalls her saying, as she began to shake and weep. He ushered her out of the examination room, away from her children, and tried to calm her. “We’re just trying to help your kids be healthy,” he told her. But he didn’t press the issue; he sensed that she wasn’t persuadable at that moment. And he didn’t want to drive her away from his practice altogether. “That really shook me up,” he says.

In his 14 years of practicing medicine in Littleton, a Denver suburb, Froehlke had seen parents decline their children’s vaccines for the sake of a more “natural” lifestyle. He had also seen parents, worried about overstressing their children’s bodies, request that vaccinations be given on different schedules. But until the past nine months or so, he had rarely seen parents with already vaccinated children refuse additional vaccines. Some of these parents were even rejecting boosters of the same shots they unquestioningly accepted for their children just a few years earlier.

Froehlke estimates that he has faced around 20 such parents, maybe more.

These parents are not uneducated, Froehlke told me. Some of them are literally rocket scientists at the nearby Lockheed Martin facility. What has happened, he suspects, is that rampant misinformation related to the Covid-19 vaccines, and the fact that pundits like Tucker Carlson on Fox News have devoted a lot of time to bashing them — among other untruths, he has suggested that the vaccines make people more likely to contract Covid-19, not less — has begun to taint some people’s view of long-established vaccines. “I think we’re going to see more of this, more spillover of persons who had previously vaccinated their children and who are now not going to vaccinate,” he says.

Such doubt has been accompanied by, and may have been augmented by, an erosion of confidence in medical expertise generally.

Southern California; Savannah, Ga.; rural Alabama; Houston — pediatricians in all these places told me about similar experiences with parents pushing back against routine vaccines.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 26, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 530,313,294, Deaths: 6,307,781
U.S. Cases:      85,570,755, Deaths: 1,030,775
Indian Cases:   43,146,033, Deaths:    524,525
Brazil Cases:    30,880,512, Deaths:    666,248

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court allows Biden climate regulations while fight continues, Robert Barnes and Anna Phillips, May 26, 2022. The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Biden administration, for now, to use a higher estimate for the societal cost of rising greenhouse gases when federal agencies draft regulations.

In a one-sentence order without comment or noted dissent, the court turned aside a request from Louisiana and other Republican-led states to prevent federal agencies from using the administration’s estimate of the harm climate change causes, known as the “social cost of carbon.”

The federal government uses the estimate in all sorts of rulemaking, including new drilling permits and assessing the costs for crop losses and flood risks.

The estimates are something of a political football. After the Trump administration lowered the cost estimate from that set in the Obama administration, President Biden’s administration increased it. Republican-led states went to court.

A federal district judge in Louisiana ruled for the states and said the estimates could not be used. But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit disagreed and put the judge’s order on hold. The Supreme Court’s action Thursday keeps that ruling in place.

Appeals court rules for Biden administration in climate change suit

Louisiana’s lawyers called the estimates “a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

But the Biden administration responded that they had been used for years. It told the Supreme Court that the district judge’s ruling was wrong but also premature. The states should not be allowed to sue before an agency even implements a rule using the new cost estimates, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote, because they have not been harmed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandstorm wave sweeps Middle East, sending thousands to hospitals, Claire Parker and Kasha Patel, May 26, 2022. Climate change and land-use practices are increasing the frequency of such storms across the region.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration, Settling a Long Fight, Moves to Block a Mine in Alaska, Coral Davenport, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The E.P.A. has proposed to ban the disposal of mining waste in the Bristol Bay watershed, a decision that means the likely end of the Pebble Mine project.

The Biden administration on Wednesday took a major legal step toward protecting Bristol Bay in Alaska, one of the world’s most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries that also sits atop enormous copper and gold deposits long coveted by mining companies.

Citing its authority under the 1972 Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a legal determination that would ban the disposal of mining waste in the Bristol Bay watershed. It’s a move that could deal a death blow to the proposed Pebble Mine, an intensely disputed project that would have extracted the metals but also irreparably harmed the ecosystem, scientists said.

The proposal, which would create permanent protections for the waters and wildlife of Bristol Bay, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, will be finalized later this year.

The determination would prohibit any entity from disposing mine-related waste within 308 square miles around the site of the proposed Pebble Mine project. That’s an area about four times as large as Washington, D.C., but just a small fraction of the entire 40,000- square mile area of the Bristol Bay watershed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jimmy Carter, at age 97, is stepping into a big environmental fight over a small road in Alaska, Henry Fountain, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). The legal battle over the gravel route could gut an environmental law that the 39th president called one of his highest achievements.

By Alaskan standards, the gravel road that an isolated community near the Aleutian Islands wants to build to connect to an airport is not a huge project. But because it would be cut through a federal wildlife refuge, the road has been a simmering source of contention since it was first proposed decades ago.

Now, the dispute is boiling over. And none other than former President Jimmy Carter, 97, has weighed in.

Residents of King Cove, and political leaders in the state, who argue that the road is needed to ensure that villagers can get emergency medical care, see the potential for a long-sought victory in a recent federal appeals court ruling that upheld a Trump-era land deal that would allow the project to move forward.

Conservation groups, who say the project is less about health care and more about transporting salmon and workers for the large cannery in King Cove, fear that more is at risk than just the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, 300,000 acres of unique habitat for migratory waterfowl, bears and other animals.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin Spacey Faces Sexual Assault Charges in Britain, Alex Marshall and Julia Jacobs, May 26, 2022. Mr. Spacey, 62, faces four counts of sexual assault against three men. He cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales.

kevin spaceyThe British authorities are bringing criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, right, on four counts of sexual assault against three men, the country’s Crown Prosecution Service announced in a news release on Thursday.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s special crime division, said in the release that Mr. Spacey, 62, had “also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”

The authorization of charges followed a review of the evidence collected by London’s police force. Mr. Spacey cannot be formally charged unless he enters England or Wales, a spokesman for the service said in a telephone interview. The spokesman declined to comment on whether the service would pursue extradition proceedings if that did not occur.

The news release said the charges concerned three complainants. The incidents dated from March 2005, August 2008 and April 2013, it added — a time when Mr. Spacey was artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London. All the incidents occurred in London, except one from 2013, which occurred in Gloucestershire, England.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Head of Louvre Is Charged in Artifact Trafficking Case, Aurelien Breeden, May 26, 2022. Jean-Luc Martinez, who led the museum from 2013 to 2021, was charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in an investigation into the trafficking of Egyptian antiquities.

The former president of the Louvre has been charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering in connection with an investigation into Egyptian artifacts that were trafficked over the past decade, French prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who was the president and director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, was released under judicial supervision after he was charged, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s office did not provide more details about the investigation, which was first reported by Le Canard Enchaîné and Le Monde.

Under the French legal system, the charges against Mr. Martinez indicate that investigators suspect him of involvement in a crime but he may not necessarily stand trial. The charges could be dropped at any point if the police uncover new evidence. Complex legal investigations often take several years to unfold in France.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Quantum Internet’ Inches Closer With Advance in Data Teleportation, Cade Metz, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Scientists have improved their ability to send quantum information across distant computers — taking another step toward the network of the future.

From Santa Barbara, Calif., to Hefei, China, scientists are developing a new kind of computer that will make today’s machines look like toys.

Harnessing the mysterious powers of quantum mechanics, the technology will perform tasks in minutes that even supercomputers could not complete in thousands of years. In the fall of 2019, Google unveiled an experimental quantum computer showing this was possible. Two years later, a lab in China did much the same.

But quantum computing will not reach its potential without help from another technological breakthrough. Call it a “quantum internet” — a computer network that can send quantum information between distant machines.

At the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, a team of physicists has taken a significant step toward this computer network of the future, using a technique called quantum teleportation to send data across three physical locations. Previously, this was possible with only two.

ny times logoNew York Times, Her Tennis Coach Abused Her. Could the Sport Have Prevented It? Matthew Futterman, May 26, 2022 (print ed.). Adrienne Jensen does not know Pam Shriver, the 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, but both say tennis needs to change its approach toward predatory coaches.

The grooming of Adrienne Jensen began with an invitation to train with a top junior tennis coach at a well-regarded tennis academy in suburban Kansas City in 2009.

To Jensen, then a promising teenage player from Iowa City who had struggled to find elite training, the offer felt like the ultimate good fortune, even if accepting it meant upending her family’s life.

Early on that fall, Jensen’s gamble seemed to be paying off as she trained with the coach, Rex Haultain, and played deeper into increasingly competitive tournaments.

“I felt like he was my ticket,” Jensen, now 27 and about to begin a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, said in a recent interview.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

May 25

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Race

 

Probes Into U.S. Religion, Politics

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters


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capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Said to Have Reacted Approvingly to Jan. 6 Chants About Hanging Pence, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, May 25, 2022. The House committee investigating the Capitol assault has heard accounts of Donald Trump’s remarks, mike pence leftincluding about Mike Pence, as he watched the riot unfold.

Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president, left, was being whisked to safety.

Mark MeadowsMr. Meadows, right, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.

It is not clear what tone Mr. Trump was said to have used. But the reported remark was further evidence of how extreme the rupture between the president and his vice president had become, and of how Mr. Trump not only failed to take action to call off the rioters but appeared to identify with their sentiments about Mr. Pence — whom he had unsuccessfully pressured to block certification of the Electoral College results that day — as a reflection of his own frustration at being unable to reverse his loss.

The account of Mr. Trump’s comment was initially provided to the House committee by at least one witness, according to two people briefed on their work, as the panel develops a timeline of what the president was doing during the riot.

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Inquiry Into Alternate Electors Focuses on Trump Lawyers, Alan Feuer, Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater, May 25, 2022. In recent subpoenas, prosecutors investigating alternate slates of electors sought information about Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and others.

The Justice Department has stepped up its criminal investigation into the creation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 election, with a particular focus on a team of lawyers that worked on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

A federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas in recent weeks to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers including Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and one of his chief legal advisers, John Eastman, one of the people said.

The subpoenas also seek information on other pro-Trump lawyers like Jenna Ellis, who worked with Mr. Giuliani, and Kenneth Chesebro, who wrote memos supporting the elector scheme in the weeks after the election.

A top Justice Department official acknowledged in January that prosecutors were trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the scheme.

Under the plan, election officials in seven key swing states put forward formal lists of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College on the grounds that the states would be shown to have swung in favor of Mr. Trump once their claims of widespread election fraud had been accepted. Those claims were baseless, and all seven states were awarded to Mr. Biden.

It is a federal crime to knowingly submit false statements to a federal agency or agent for an undue end. The alternate elector slates were filed with a handful of government bodies, including the National Archives.

The focus on the alternate electors is only one of the efforts by the Justice Department to broaden its vast investigation of hundreds of rioters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

joe biden jill biden school shooting may 24 2022 white house

Politico, 'Why are we willing to live with this carnage?': Biden demands action on guns after Texas school shooting, Christopher Cadelago and politico CustomLaura Barrón-López, May 25, 2022 (print ed.). In an emotional address after the shooting in an elementary school in Texas, the president (shown above in a White House photo) asked for prayer and political action.

President Joe Biden again tried to comfort a nation grieving after a mass shooting, urging action to counter powerful gunmakers and repeatedly questioning why the country he leads lacks “the backbone” to stem the bloodshed.

In a prime-time address, a visibly emotional Biden asked what it would take to convince fellow lawmakers that “it’s time to act.”

ny times logoNew York Times, 19 Children and 2 Teachers Are Killed in Texas School Shooting: Live Updates, 'We Have to Act,’ Biden Says in Speech, Josh Peck and J. David Goodman, May 25, 2022 (print ed.). A gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday in a rural Texas elementary school, officials said, in the deadliest American school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago.

The slayings took place just before noon at Robb Elementary School, where second through fourth graders in Uvalde, a small city west of San Antonio, were preparing to start summer break this week.

The gunman, whom the authorities identified as an 18-year-old man who had attended a nearby high school, was armed with several weapons, officials said. He died at the scene, they said.

Greg Abbott Custom“He shot and killed horrifically, incomprehensibly,” Gov. Greg Abbott, right, said in a news conference.

As terrified parents in Uvalde late Tuesday waited for word of their children’s safety and law enforcement officials raced to piece together how the massacre had transpired, the mass shooting was deepening a national political debate over gun laws and the prevalence of weapons. Ten days earlier, a gunman fatally shot 10 people inside a Buffalo grocery store.

“This is just evil,” Rey Chapa, an Uvalde resident, said of Tuesday’s killings while using an expletive. Mr. Chapa said his nephew was in the school when the shooting took place but was safe. He was waiting to hear back from relatives and friends on the texas mapconditions of other children, scrolling through Facebook for updates. “I’m afraid I’m going to know a lot of these kids that were killed.”

Across the street from the school on Tuesday evening, state troopers were scattered across the school lawn and an ambulance idled with its lights flashing. Adolfo Hernandez, a longtime Uvalde resident, said his nephew had been in a classroom near where the shooting took place.

“He actually witnessed his little friend get shot in the face,” Mr. Hernandez said. The friend, he said, “got shot in the nose and he just went down, and my nephew was devastated.”

In a brief address from the White House on Tuesday night, President Biden grew emotional as he reflected on the massacre and called for USTR seal Custom 2action, but did not advocate for a particular policy or vote.

“It’s just sick,” he said of the sorts of weapons that are easily available in the United States and used in mass shootings. “Where in God’s name is our backbone, the courage to do more and then stand up to the lobbies? It’s time to turn this pain into action.”

Mr. Biden later added, “May the Lord be near to the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit, because they’re going to need a lot.”

The shooting took place on Election Day in Texas, as voters across the state headed to the polls for primary runoffs that would set the stage for the November election at a time when the state and the nation have been riven by political disagreements over race, immigration and abortion.

As the deadly toll became known, the events at Robb Elementary School immediately brought forth wrenching memories of the devastating 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., that left six staff members and 20 children dead, some as young as 6 years old.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman was bullied as a child, grew increasingly violent, friends say, Robert Klemko, Silvia Foster-Frau and Shawn Boburg, May 25, 2022. Relatives, classmates describe fraught relationship with mother and a troubling pattern of acting out.

The gunman in Tuesday’s elementary school massacre was a lonely 18-year-old who was bullied over a childhood speech impediment, suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years, friends and relatives said.

Using weapons purchased this month, days after his 18th birthday, authorities said, Salvador Rolando Ramos shot and critically wounded his grandmother. He then went on a shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School near his home in Uvalde, Tex., killing at least 19 children and two adults and injuring others.

Ramos also was fatally shot, apparently by police. The Texas Department of Public Safety said he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle.

Santos Valdez Jr., 18, said he has known Ramos since early elementary school. They were friends, he said, until Ramos’s behavior started to deteriorate.

They used to play video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. But then Ramos changed. Once, Valdez said, Ramos pulled up to a park where they often played basketball and had cuts all over his face. He first said a cat had scratched his face.

“Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,” Valdez said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, bro, why would you do that?’”

Ramos said he did it for fun, Valdez recalled.

In middle school and junior high, Ramos was bullied for having a stutter and a strong lisp, friends and family said.

Stephen Garcia, who considered himself Ramos’s best friend in eighth grade, said Ramos didn’t have it easy in school. “He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” Garcia said. “Over social media, over gaming, over everything.”

Garcia said he tried to stand up for him. But when Garcia and his mother relocated to another part of Texas for her job, “he just started being a different person,” Garcia said. “He kept getting worse and worse, and I don’t even know.”

When Garcia left, Ramos dropped out of school. He started wearing all black, Garcia said, and large military boots. He grew his hair out long.

He missed long periods of high school, classmates said, and was not on track to graduate with them this year.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia wants ‘to destroy everything’ in Donbas region, Zelensky warns, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, May 25, 2022. 8 Russian fighters charged in killings of Ukrainian mayor and her family; Zelensky calls Texas school shooting ‘terrible’ during ‘peaceful time.’ Regional governor says this week will determine the fate of Luhansk; Finnish and Swedish delegates visit Turkey to discuss NATO membership; Updates from key battlefields: Russia scales back objectives, seizes some terrain.

Russia wants “to destroy everything” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its forces have focused their efforts on a few key front-line cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, calling the situation there “extremely difficult.” Russian forces are inching closer to the strategic city of Severodonetsk — but their overall military performance “remains poor,” according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu defended the slow pace of military operations, saying it was done deliberately to allow civilians to evacuate. (Ukrainian prosecutors say they have launched 13,000 investigations into possible cases of Russian war crimes against civilians.) Zelensky on Tuesday mocked the Kremlin’s explanation: “After three months of searching for an explanation why they failed to break Ukraine in three days, they came up with nothing better than to claim that they had allegedly planned to do so.”

Swedish and Finnish delegations are in Turkey to discuss their bids to join NATO, hoping to assuage Ankara’s concerns after the influential member of the defense alliance released a list Monday of assurances it wants from Sweden for the NATO accession process to move forward. Meanwhile, the European Union is still trying to overcome opposition from Hungary to a deal on an embargo on Russian oil.

Here’s what else to know

  • The British Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has left “significant supplies of Ukrainian grain” stranded and “unable to be exported,” as fears grow that the war in Ukraine could spark a global food crisis.
  • Ukrainian prosecutors charged five Russian service members and three mercenaries with the murder of a Kyiv suburb mayor.
  • U.S. financial institutions will no longer be permitted to accept bond payments from Russia, after the Treasury Department said it would let a sanctions waiver expire Wednesday.
  • The British government approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club after sanctions were placed on the London-based club’s longtime owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: World Leaders Accuse Russia of Inciting Food Crisis, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Shashank Bengali, May 25, 2022 (print ed.). Officials called for international action, including a proposed naval flotilla to evade a Russian blockade, to deliver 20 million tons of grain trapped in Ukraine. Russian forces pushed toward a key eastern city, where at least four people were killed in an artillery attack.

Fears of a global food crisis are swelling as a Russian blockade of Ukrainian seaports and attacks on its grain warehouses have choked off one of the world’s breadbaskets, deepening fears that President Vladimir V. Putin is using food as a powerful new weapon in his three-month-old war.

Some warned that unless the port of Odesa is opened soon, there is a threat of famine in some countries and political unrest in others, in what could be the gravest global repercussion yet of Russia’s assault on its neighbor.

As Russian forces continued a slow, deadly march toward Ukraine’s last stronghold in the battered Luhansk region, the president of the European Commission on Tuesday accused Moscow of deliberately trying to provoke a global food crisis by targeting grain warehouses, ports and other critical infrastructure in its three-month war in Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen denounced Russia for destroying silos, seizing grain stocks and enforcing a blockade that has kept Ukraine, one of the world’s most important food exporters, from shipping wheat, sunflower seeds and other products to hungry markets.

Ukraine’s economic losses because of Russia’s invasion amount to around $1 trillion, or five years of economic output, according to an economic advisor to the president, Oleh Ustenko. He said the estimate was based both on direct losses, such as destruction of infrastructure, and indirect losses such as reduced investment and exports. Ukraine’s GDP stood at $155.6 billion in 2020, according to the World Bank.

 

U.S. Election Results, Eligibility, Outlook

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Elections Live Updates: Kemp Routs Perdue as Georgians Reject Trump’s Meddling, Shane Goldmacher and Maya King, May 25, 2022 (print ed.). Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia won the Republican nomination for a second term on Tuesday, resoundingly turning back a primary challenge that had been engineered by Donald J. Trump and delivering the former president his biggest electoral setback of the 2022 primaries.

Seeking retribution for Mr. Kemp’s decision to certify the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Mr. Trump had personally recruited former Senator David Perdue to run for governor, worked to clear the field for him, recorded television ads, held a rally and even transferred $2.64 million from his political accounts to help him.

brian kempMr. Kemp, right, won by a wide enough margin — he was leading by nearly 50 percentage points when The Associated Press called the race — to avoid a runoff. Mr. Perdue had anchored his candidacy on promoting falsehoods about the last election, blaming Mr. Kemp both for Mr. Trump’s defeat and his own loss in a 2021 runoff that gave Democrats control of the Senate. The outcome on Tuesday exposed the limits of Mr. Trump’s hold on his party’s base.

Mr. Kemp’s victory sets up a rematch of his 2018 battle with Stacey Abrams, who won the Democratic nomination unopposed on Tuesday, in what will be one of the most closely watched governor’s races in the nation this fall. His most urgent imperative is reuniting a Republican Party fractured by the divisive primary.

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas that left 18 children dead cast a shadow over the evening, as Mr. georgia mapKemp delayed his victory speech until after President Biden addressed the tragedy.

In Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star who was also recruited by Mr. Trump, won the Republican nomination and will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in November. The matchup in the fall, the outcome of which could tip control of the Senate, is a rare general election contest in the South pitting two Black candidates against one another.

While Mr. Walker glided through the primary, his tumultuous past — including accusations of domestic abuse and his exaggerated and false claims about his business success — is expected to receive a more thorough airing in the general election.

Both parties expect Mr. Walker to be the subject of coming commercials questioning his competence and credentials. His Democratic opponent, Mr. Warnock, one of the best fund-raisers in the nation, has been on the television airwaves for months already, focusing largely on positive messages.

With nearly 200 endorsements so far, Mr. Trump has set up the 2022 primary season as a rolling referendum on his influence in the party. He has scored notable big successes, such as J.D. Vance in Ohio, and suffered defeats in Nebraska and Idaho. But no state so far has been as much a focus for Mr. Trump as Georgia, where he not only set out to oust the governor but also Mr. Kemp’s allies across other statewide offices.

In the secretary of state race, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent whom Mr. Trump pressured to “find” the sufficient votes to overturn the election in early 2021, was ahead of a Trump-backed challenger, Representative Jody Hice. It was not clear, however, if he would clear the 50 percent threshold needed to avert a runoff.

The secretary of state serves as Georgia’s top elections official, and the winner in the fall will have great sway over how the 2024 presidential campaign will be conducted in a key battleground state.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the right-wing firebrand, handily cast aside a more moderate challenger, carrying more than two-thirds of the vote.

While Georgia received top billing on Tuesday, several other states held primaries.

In Texas, the last scion of the Bush political dynasty, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, was defeated in the state attorney general’s race, losing to the scandal-plagued incumbent, Ken Paxton. And in a Democratic contest along the border, Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most moderate Democrats in the House, faces a progressive challenge from Jessica Cisneros that has drawn national attention.

And in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary and the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, has mostly coasted through a Republican primary for governor. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas i