Thousands of pairs of shoes dotted the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this week, prompting photos and media coverage about what it meant.
Global activist group Avaaz set up the demonstration of 7,000 pairs of shoes on March 13 to represent child deaths from gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. Many major news outlets including CNN and USA Today shared striking images of the shoes, but some Internet bloggers were confused about what the shoes really symbolized.
Take, for example, Equality House, one of many blogs that shared this post on their Facebook page:
The image says that shoes on the Capitol lawn represent 7,182 students “killed in U.S. schools since 2012.” (The image offers a comparison to deaths from overseas wars since 2001, which is a safer estimate.)
But that’s the wrong interpretation.
It’s been more than five years since Sandy Hook, so the display featured 7,000 pairs of shoes. That total includes children who are killed at home, in neighborhoods, and by suicide.
Far fewer children have been killed in schools.
The estimate for 7,000 child gun deaths traces back to a June 2017 study by Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal. It found that 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds every year. The study looked at children from birth to 17 years of age.
The Avaaz news release stated that the shoes symbolize the children who have been killed by all gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting, not children killed in U.S. schools.
There isn’t one uniform way of tracking school shootings and deaths, but no matter which what you look at it, the 7,000-figure isn’t accurate.
Using data from the Gun Violence Archive, the Times found that 138 people have been killed in school shootings since Sandy Hook. That total includes school personnel who are not students, so the number of students would be even smaller.
The Gun Violence Archive defines a school shooting as an incident that occurs on the property of an elementary, secondary or college campus and only included incidents in which people were injured or killed.
So, even if you count all of the other instances of a student being killed on a school campus (for which there is no official count) it’s likely it would not come anywhere near 7,182.
Equality House, for its part, noted the difference between the image and the way Avaaz described it in the caption of its post. But the group still circulated the flawed information and did not delete it.
Bloggers said shoes on the Capitol lawn this week represented 7,182 students killed in U.S. schools since 2012.
That’s not accurate. The pairs of shoes symbolized more than 7,000 children who had been killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting. The number of children killed in school violence, while fluid, is certainly smaller than that total.
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Says shoes on the Capitol lawn represent 7,182 students who were killed in U.S. schools since 2012.
(CNN)Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee resigned Thursday from the Country Music Association Foundation board of directors — less than one day after his appointment — after backlash over his anti-gay rights record.
“I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained,” Huckabee wrote in his letter of resignation.
Huckabee didn’t mention the controversy over his stance on gay rights in his letter. But he wrote, “If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it.”
A message left by CNN with the foundation seeking comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.
Huckabee, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, compared legalizing same-sex marriage to incest and polygamy in 2010. He also compared same-sex adoption to experimentation, saying that “children are not puppies.”
Jason Owen, the co-president of Monument Records who is in a same-sex marriage and has a son, told the association’s CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns that neither his companies nor those they represent would support the foundation due to Huckabee’s appointment.
“Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country,” Owen wrote in an email obtained by MusicRow. “Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
Whitney Pastorek, a manager of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and a CMA member, also expressed concern in an email to CMA executives, casting Huckabee as someone who “engages in language of racism, sexism, and bigotry,” The Tennessean newspaper reported.
CMA board member Joe Galante told USA Today in a statement that Huckabee was elected to the board because he “led an impressive administration while serving the state of Arkansas and his policy experience with education reform is something we are fortunate to be able to learn from.”
Politically, many country music fans tend to lean conservative, and the issue of gay rights is seldom pressed in the industry.
The CMA Foundation is the association’s philanthropic arm and supports music education programs across the country.
The fatal Amtrak crash south of Seattle occurred on track where equipment for automatic braking, which Congress has required on all railroads by the end of 2018, was installed but was still being tested.
Train 501 was going 80 mph Monday in a curve posted for 30 mph when several cars derailed and dangled off a bridge above Interstate 5, according to Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board that is investigating.
At least three people died and dozens were injured when 13 train cars jumped the tracks during the train’s inaugural run along a new bypass route. The train carried 85 passengers and crew members.
The board will spend months determining what role speed and any other factors played in the accident before making recommendations about how to avoid future accidents.
Congress set the deadline for railroads to install automatic braking after a collision in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008 between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people. Safety advocates contend the technology could have prevented the accident.
An Amtrak train car that careened off an overpass south of Seattle is hauled away on Interstate 5 Dec. 19, 2017, in Dupont, Wash. Federal investigators say they don’t yet know why the train was traveling 50 mph over the speed limit when it derailed Monday, killing some people and injuring dozens. Haven Daley, AP
The technology collectively known as “Positive Train Control” provides signals between tracks, trains and dispatch centers to slow down speeding trains or to stop them at the appropriate signals if the engineer isn’t responding. Railroads are installing the technology piecemeal across the country at a cost of billions of dollars.
“The Positive Train Control equipment has been installed and is now still in testing, which is why the system has not been activated,” Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said of the track owned by a Seattle-area transit company where the accident occurred.
Sound Transit owns the tracks south from Tacoma to Dupont, where the accident occurred, providing its own transit service as far south as Lakewood, according to spokesman Geoff Patrick.
But the state Department of Transportation upgraded the tracks with federal funding so Amtrak could travel farther south along the tracks, while avoiding freight tracks that run along the shore of Puget Sound.
“We own the tracks, but we do not operate on them,” Patrick said of the accident location.
Sound Transit has installed Positive Train Control equipment along the railroad right-of-way, which will communicate with trains and network control centers, Patrick said. But the system hasn’t yet been linked together or certified as operational, he said.
“We are well ahead of the December 2018 deadline and on schedule for implementing in the second quarter of 2018,” Patrick said. “We’re pleased to be well ahead of the deadline.”
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said Amtrak is behind the new technology. “As far as Positive Train Control goes, we are huge supporters of Positive Train Control at Amtrak,” Anderson said.
Keith Millhouse, rail-safety consultant and a former board chairman of Metrolink at the time of the Chatsworth collision, has advocated for Positive Train Control because rail accidents often result from human errors such as distraction that could be avoided with automatic braking.
“The big tragedy here is that if indeed it was over-speed, positive train control would have prevented this accident,” Millhouse said.
He said the accident was “eerily similar” to the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia in May 2015, which killed eight people and injured hundreds.
The NTSB ruled that the engineer lost awareness of where he was on his route and headed into a 50-mph curve at more than 100 mph. Positive Train Control hadn’t been installed on that part of track by the time of the accident, but Amtrak completed it along its portion of the Northeast Corridor in December 2015.
Benedict Morelli, a New York lawyer who represented passengers in the crash, said Congress should have hastened the requirement for railroads to adopt the technology before the latest accident.
“I worry when I get on an airplane. Before I represented these people, I didn’t get on an Amtrak train and think, ‘God, I hope I don’t derail,’” Morelli said. “Now it’s happening and happening and happening. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Even when completed, the system is not foolproof.
An Amtrak train struck a backhoe at 99 mph outside Philadelphia in April 2016, killing two people and injuring 36 — despite automatic braking being installed along the track.
In a safety lapse between work shifts, the board found a night foreman lifted a closure on the track, which the day foreman didn’t resume, even though the backhoe remained on the track.
Anderson refused to speculate about what caused Monday’s crash. But he said Amtrak listens to NTSB guidance and is making investments based on recommendations from previous accidents.
“We take those very seriously and continue to make the investments recommended by the NTSB,” Anderson said. “Safety is the highest priority of the Amtrak board.”
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JERUSALEM (RNS) – Yael Horovitz, who immigrated to Israel from Australia, always loved the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but the emphasis there on Christmas made her feel a little left out.
“In Australia, for two months out of the year I couldn’t escape Christmas carols,” said Horovitz, who is Jewish. “Being forced to listen to them in supermarkets, shopping centers, on the radio and TV bothered me.”
Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over their Greek-Syrian oppressors in 167 B.C., as well as the re-dedication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, was barely acknowledged by most Australians, Horovitz said.
But Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Tuesday, is an altogether different experience for her now.
Ten years ago Horovitz moved to Israel, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population. Here, the holiday season “feels so right,” she said. “This is my religion, these are my songs, my decorations, my kids being educated to love their heritage, and being embraced by it from all sides.”
Hanukkah in the Holy Land gives Horovitz and other Jews who have immigrated to Israel from Western countries a sense of belonging they don’t feel anywhere else. In Israel, though Hanukkah is not a national holiday, most of the nation celebrates it.
That’s a big contrast to the way many American Jews feel at Christmastime, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.
“Christmas is the one day of the year when many American Jews experience a sense that they are outsiders in America” because Christmas, a religious holiday, is also a national holiday, Sarna said.
Although Hanukkah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, Sarna said, more than a century ago American Jews elevated the holiday “as a way to ensure that they were not left out of the holiday spirit.”
Their goal, Sarna said, was to ensure that Jewish children would be happy and proud of their own winter holiday and not want to celebrate the holiday of another religion.
Even so, if you live in the U.S., “it is impossible to avoid Santa and Christmas music and holiday lights. It’s the time of year when the differences between Jews and their neighbors seem most stark.”
That’s not the case in Israel, Sarna said, where Hanukkah and not Christmas is the dominant December holiday. Just 2.1 percent of Israelis are Christian; 17 percent are Muslim; 1.7 percent are Druze. The remaining 4 percent belong to other religious minorities or have no religion.
Although Hanukkah in Israel remains far less commercialized than it is in the U.S., with shopping malls hanging nary a holiday decoration, it has more recently taken on some of its American trappings.
This week, Osher Ad, a large Jerusalem supermarket, had two aisles’ worth of Hanukkah-related products, from elaborate faux-silver menorahs to imported paper Hanukkah plates and napkins and dreidel-shaped containers filled with chocolate candies.
And rather than sell only simple jelly doughnuts, a traditional Hanukkah treat, now bakeries around the country create fancy and expensive Western-style doughnuts.
Jewish children are on school break the week of Hanukkah, so movie theaters time their new releases to the vacation. Festigal, a live music and dance show for children, is an annual tradition.
Compared with the holiday season in the U.S., however, Hanukkah in Israel is low-key. Families gather to light the menorah – some have a separate one for each child – and eat doughnuts or potato pancakes fried in oil. (Oily foods are eaten on Hanukkah to commemorate the “miracle” of the holiday, when enough oil to light a lamp for just one night lasted for eight.)
Some parents give their children presents – though almost never more than a couple — or Hanukkah “gelt” – both money and chocolate coins.
Orthodox families like to light their menorahs outside, in glass containers, so everyone who passes can soak up their light.
Tsipi Amiri, whose family lived in the U.S. until she was 10, said she doesn’t miss the “commercialization” of the holiday season or the pressure to celebrate Hanukkah with lots of fanfare and gifts.
“There was this competition within the American Jewish community about who got what,” Amiri said. “Thankfully, I don’t see that here.”
Netanya Carmi said the first thing she noticed during her first Israeli Hanukkah 20 years ago was that many stores close early every night and evening classes at universities are canceled so all can go home and light candles with their families.
“Here in Israel, Hanukkah is all about tradition and family,” Carmi said.
HANUKKAH: THE JEWISH 8-DAY FESTIVAL OF LIGHTSWhat is Hanukkah? These clever kids explain | 1:11
Hanukkah begins Tuesday night! Hear about the Jewish holiday from children who look forward to lighting the nightly candles on the menorah, playing games and getting gifts, just like their Christian counterparts do at Christmas. VPC
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Antarctica is getting a little hot under the collar.
Just under the frozen wasteland of the world’s coldest continent are some seriously hot rocks, which are helping to melt its ice sheet and create lakes and rivers, a study found.
How hot? Try 1,800 degrees. The heat produced by the scorching hot rocks — officially known as a mantle plume — was measured at 150 milliwatts per square meter. That’s not far from the heat produced under Yellowstone National Park, which is measured at about 200 milliwatts per square meter.
The study is among the first to say that a mantle plume exists under Marie Byrd Land, a portion of West Antarctica. Study lead author Helene Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory thought it was “crazy” that it would be there: “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” she said.
The goal of the study was to figure out how the ice sheet was able to stay frozen with such a warm mantle plume underneath and to determine the amount of heat provided by the plume to the base of the ice sheet.
Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it could help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly some 11,000 years ago and why it’s so unstable today, Seroussi said.
Additionally, understanding the sources and future of the meltwater under West Antarctica is important for estimating the rate at which ice may be lost to the ocean in the future, she added.
This study is not linked to the recent iceberg calving event in Larsen C or the change in Antarctic sea ice, Seroussi said.
The mantle plume has been present in this region for over 50 million years, so it existed before the onset of the Antarctic ice sheet. “However, the presence of the plume is important, as it suggests the ice is more vulnerable in this area: this additional heat warms the ice, which suggests greater weakness in the face of future and past changes in the environment,” she added.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.
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China tightens border controls with N. Korea: U.S. diplomat
Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press May 26, 2017
BEIJING – Chinese officials have told the U.S. that they’ve tightened inspections and policing along the border with North Korea as part of U.N. sanctions aimed at halting Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile activities, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said Friday.
Beijing’s action reflects a growing awareness about the urgent need for China to pressure North Korea into halting its testing of missiles and nuclear bombs, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton told reporters in Beijing. President Donald Trump’s administration has made a renewed push to enlist Beijing’s help in those efforts following a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.
Touching on other areas of the relationship, Thornton said the new administration has not changed its commitment to greater engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region or its approach to naval operations in the disputed South China Sea.
On North Korea, the U.S. has seen a “shift in emphasis” in China’s approach to its fellow communist neighbor, Thornton said.
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“They’ve said that they have stepped up border inspections, beefed up sort of the policing function on the border, stepped up customs inspections,” she said. Beijing has also done “a number of other things on companies” that have dealings with North Korea, Thornton said, without giving details.
The U.S. has been talking to Beijing about taking action against specific firms and is waiting to see what sort of action China will take, she said.
China has signed on to U.N. sanctions and suspended coal imports from North Korea through the rest of the year, but has been generally reticent about what other steps it may be taking to use its leverage as Pyongyang’s most important trading and diplomatic partner.
People watch a screen showing news coverage of the Pukguksong-2 missile rocket launch at a public square in central Pyongyang May 22, 2017. Kim Won-Jin, AFP/Getty Images
Asked about Thornton’s remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China remained committed to “strictly implementing” U.N. sanctions but offered no details or what other measures it might be taking.
Lu also reiterated China’s call for a renewal of six-nation denuclearization talks that have been on ice since 2009, saying the parties should “be flexible, meet each other halfway, and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”
Thornton said the U.S., China and others were also in talks on a future U.N. resolution on North Korea in order to cut the time needed to take action following another nuclear or missile test.
“So we’re looking at trying to get going on the next set of major measures that would be taken in the wake of another provocation,” Thornton said. Such measures could include ratcheting up economic pressure on the North by targeting trade in consumer goods, possibly including textiles, she said.
Despite Lu’s comments later in the day, Thornton said Beijing officials now realize more pressure is needed before dialogue can be restored.
“And so they know now that they don’t have, I think, as much time to try to bring the North Koreans to the table, get their calculus changed and get them to the negotiating table as they may have previously thought,” she said.
Adding to that, Beijing also seems to have recognized that North Korea’s actions were “undermining China’s own security in pretty major ways,” Thornton said.
“They do recognize that it’s going to be pretty hard to have a dialogue while the North Koreans are shooting off missiles,” she said.
North Korea exploded two nuclear devices last year, one of which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. Satellite imagery suggests it could be ready to conduct its next test — its sixth — at any time.
On Monday, Pyongyang said it is ready to start mass-producing a new medium-range missile after a weekend test-launch confirmed its combat readiness. The regime’s oft-stated goal is to perfect a nuclear warhead that it can put on a missile capable of hitting Washington or other U.S. cities.
Some outside the administration have been less sanguine about China’s willingness to work with the U.S. on North Korea, while Beijing officials say their influence with Pyongyang has been exaggerated. China maintains that while it wants to neutralize North Korea as a threat, it opposes harsh sanctions or other measures that could bring down young leader Kim Jong Un’s regime, leading to a potential outflow of refugees and South Korean and American troops on the Chinese border.
China continues to pay lip service to cracking down on North Korea but there’s been “little evidence of actual pressure,” said Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.
Cheng also criticized China for pressuring South Korea not to deploy a sophisticated U.S. anti-missile system aimed at countering North Korea. Beijing says the system threatens its own security with its ability to peer deep into northeastern China.
“In short, China has made clear that Seoul, even in the face of North Korean missile tests, should place Chinese concerns above the security of their own people,” Cheng said.
While there have been reports that the Trump administration was reconsidering Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, Thornton said Washington has made no substantial changes.
That followed the U.S. Navy’s sailing a destroyer near a Chinese man-made island in the South China Sea on Thursday in a “freedom of navigation” operation aimed at challenging what the U.S. considers excessive territorial claims in the strategic waterway that Beijing claims virtually in its entirety.
Washington’s approach is “engagement with Asia to show that we’re still present in the region, that we’re going to keep our security commitments in the region, certainly support for our allies and with North Korea as a focal point on the security front,” Thornton said.
A former member of the Russian parliament is gunned down in broad daylight in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. A longtime Russian ambassador to the United Nations drops dead at work. A Russian-backed commander in the breakaway Ukrainian province of Donetsk is blown up in an elevator. A Russian media executive is found dead in his Washington, D.C., hotel room.
What do they have in common? They are among 38 prominent Russians who are victims of unsolved murders or suspicious deaths since the beginning of 2014, according to a list compiled by USA TODAY and British journalist Sarah Hurst, who has done research in Russia.
The list contains 10 high-profile critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, seven diplomats, six associates of Kremlin power brokers who had a falling out — often over corruption — and 13 military or political leaders involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including commanders of Russian-backed separatist forces. Two are possibly connected to a dossier alleging connections between President Trump’s campaign staff and Kremlin officials that was produced by a former British spy and shared with the FBI.
Twelve were shot, stabbed or beaten to death. Six were blown up. Ten died allegedly of natural causes. One died of mysterious head injuries, one reportedly slipped and hit his head in a public bath, one was hanged in his jail cell, and one died after drinking coffee. The cause of six deaths was reported as unknown.
Putin has long dealt with opponents harshly. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in March that Putin “has murdered his political opponents and rules like an authoritarian dictator.”
Yet the list of fatalities — 36 men and two women — suggests that Putin’s alleged attacks on his critics and whistle-blowers are more extensive and lethal than previously known. It also raises new concerns about contacts Putin and his lieutenants had with Trump’s campaign staff.
Trump praised Putin in March 2016 as a “strong leader,” and in 2015 said “I’d get along great with” the Russian leader. On Feb 6, Trump defended Putin when Bill O’Reilly, then of Fox News, called Putin a killer. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump replied. “Do you think our country is so innocent?”
The FBI and Congress are currently investigating contacts between Kremlin officials and Trump’s campaign advisers, as part of its investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Leahy made his comment about Putin at a congressional hearing that featured Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian political activist with personal experience of his government’s efforts to silence outspoken critics.
“We’ve seen political opposition leaders and activists, whistle-blowers, anti-corruption campaigners and independent journalists lose their lives in one way or another,” Kara-Murza told USA TODAY. “Sometimes these are suspicious suicides and plane crashes, really rare and horrible diseases. In many others they are straight murders.”
Kara-Murza worked with former deputy prime minister and Putin opponent Boris Nemtsov before Nemtsov was gunned down in Moscow in 2015. Kara-Murza worked until recently with Russian anti-corruption lawyer and political candidate Alexei Navalny, who suffered eye injury Thursday after being attacked with a chemical following his release from jail for leading unsanctioned protests against the Putin government across Russia this spring.
“Sometimes there are near-misses,” Kara-Murza testified in March before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Kara-Murza said he was the victim of attempted poisonings twice: in May 2015 and this past February.
“Twice in the past two years I have experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning, both times in Moscow,” he said in an interview. “Both times, symptoms came on suddenly and out of nowhere. Both times spending weeks in a coma on life support machines. Both times, doctors set my chance of survival at 5%, so I’m very fortunate to be here today. ”
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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., noted at the hearing the dangers of winding up on the wrong side of politics in Russia. “In our system, if we make a bad decision, we might lose an election and have to work as a paid analyst on TV,” he told Kara-Murza. “In your case, people die.”
Rubio and other senators had called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to meet with members of Russia’s political opposition during his April visit to Moscow, but Tillerson did not have time for a meeting, deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.
Most of the older diplomats on the list were probably victims of poor health, said Boris Silberman, a Russia analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“Knowing how diplomats live, going from one cocktail party to the next and not to the gym in between, it finally catches up to you,” Silberman said.
That could apply to Vitaly Churkin, 64, the Russian ambassador to the U.N., who died on Feb. 20 in New York of an apparent heart attack. Others, like Petr Polshikov, 56, a chief adviser to the Latin America department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, found dead with a gunshot wound in his Moscow home on Dec. 20, require further investigation, Silberman said.
“There’s almost a fever on the Russia story,” Silberman said. “Some of it is substantial. It’s almost like there’s something nefarious behind every piece of news. Sometimes there is. … They tend to clean up their messes this way.”
Many of the recent deaths raise suspicions because a string of Putin critics have died in obvious murders years earlier. They include:
• Nemtsov, who was shot to death while walking after dinner with his girlfriend in a security zone near the Kremlin. Two Chechen suspects, one a former bodyguard to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, are on trial, but the investigation did not reveal whether anyone ordered the hit.
• Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer who died in prison while investigating the alleged theft of $230 million by Russian government officials. No one was ever charged.
• Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian spy who defected, became a British citizen and was murdered in London in 2006 with radioactive polonium-210 while helping European authorities in a corruption investigation. The “state-sponsored murder” was an effort by the Russian government to send a chilling message to its critics, Peter Clarke, Scotland Yard’s former deputy commissioner who led the investigation, told the British Daily Mail on April 17. Two Russian suspects were identified by British authorities, but Russia refused to extradite them, and no one was charged.
• Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who exposed Russian atrocities during the war in the restive Russian republic of Chechnya. She was gunned down in her Moscow apartment stairway in 2006. Former police officer Dmitry Pavliutchenkov was convicted of ordering surveillance of the journalist but denied killing her. He was sentenced in 2012 to 11 years in prison. Five alleged accomplices were later convicted, including two who were sentenced to life in prison. Pavliutchenkov’s promise to identify who ordered the hit never resulted in further charges.
Two of the recent victims, Oleg Erovinkin and Alex Oronov, have been described by Russian analysts as possibly connected to a dossier written by a former British spy about Trump and his campaign staff’s alleged collusion with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Erovinkin, 61, a general in the Russian spy agency and a close associate of a Putin confidant, was found dead in the back of his car on Dec. 26 in Moscow. The cause of death is unknown.
Oronov, 69, a Ukrainian-born businessman in New York, died under unknown circumstances around March 2, according to Andriy Artemenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament. Oronov had arranged a meeting between Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen; Trump business associate Felix Sater, and Artemenko in January about a peace plan for Ukraine that would benefit Russia. Artemenko alleged that Oronov died because of the peace-plan plot.
The list of recent deaths does not include Matthew Puncher, 46, a British polonium expert in the Litvinenko inquiry, reported to have stabbed himself to death in his home in Oxfordshire after returning from a trip to Russia last May.
Luke Harding chronicled a succession of suspected political murders in his 2016 book, A Very Expensive Poison; the Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West. Former KGB officers and defectors described Soviet-era research into poisons used to kill enemies that continued in post-Soviet Russia, Harding wrote. Some substances are so rare and leave so little trace that death can be easily mistaken for a heart attack.
Journalist Hurst, who helped compile the list of deaths, said the recent uptick appears to be a sign of the growing political pressure on Putin and his cronies. “Putin is at the top of a criminal organization (and) there are all these people who have dirt on him,” she said. “It’s not surprising he’s willing to bump people off.”
Kara-Murza, who is still recovering from the alleged poisoning, said he has “absolutely no doubt this was an attempt to kill me because of my political activities in the Russian opposition for the last several years, and more specifically because of my active involvement in the campaign in support of the Magnitsky Act,” which calls for U.S. sanctions on Russian officials involved in human rights abuses and corruption.
He plans to push for similar laws in other Western countries, and to return to Russia to continue his activism when he is physically stronger.
Since many of the suspicious deaths are related to government corruption or those who exposed it, Kara-Murza urged Congress to block Russians who stole their nation’s wealth from investing in the United States.
“This is not only about money,” he said in his Senate testimony. “Much more importantly it is about the message that the U.S. sends to Russia.”
U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who last July said white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup,” on Sunday found himself again the subject of criticism, this time for saying that Muslim children are preventing “our civilization” from being restored.
King, who was retweeting a message endorsing Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister, said Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
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The original tweet, from the anti-European Union Voice of Europe, media organization, displays a cartoon with an image of Wilders plugging a hole in a wall labeled “Western Civilization.” Nearby, bearded protesters hold signs that say, “Infidels, Know Your Limits” and “Freedom of Speech Go To Hell.”
The caption reads: “Hundreds of Islamists shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Wilders is right for over 10 years.”
King was on the receiving end of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.
Conservative columnist Bill Kristol tweeted, “Is it worth making the obvious point that what American history has been about is ‘restoring’ ourselves with ‘somebody else’s babies?'”
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean called King “a total ignoramus and no one takes him seriously. He does give off good quotes to outrage people though.”
In a pair of tweets endorsing King’s tweet, former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke said that if Americans were considering moving, “sanity reigns supreme in Iowa’s 4th congressional district,” in the state’s northwest area, which King represents.
The Washington Post last month noted that while just 64% of the U.S. population is white and non-Hispanic, nearly 89% of Iowa’s population describe themselves that way.
King has often made provocative comments about “civilization” and what he perceives as a declining role in its development for white Christians.
Meeting last September with Wilders and another anti-immigrant politician, Frauke Petry of Germany, King tweeted a photo with the caption, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”
During the Republican National Convention in July, King created an uproar by asserting that white people have contributed more to the advancement of human civilization than any other “sub-group of people.”
Steve King creates uproar with salute to contributions of white people
Last September, King spoke out against silent protests by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, calling them “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.”
The often strident Wilders is sometimes referred to as the “Dutch Trump.” He earned the nickname not just for his love of extreme comments — he has tweeted about “left wing elitist losers,” among others — but also for explicit anti-Muslim views. Wilders has called for the Koran to be banned, and his party’s platform calls for prohibiting new mosques, which he compares to “Nazi Temples.” He has also proposed closing Dutch borders and making “the Netherlands ours again,” The Post reported.
The wife of Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people in a shooting rampage at a Orlando nightclub last June, was arrested Monday on a charge of obstructing justice, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY.
Noor Salman was taken into custody by the FBI at her Northern California home, The New York Times reports.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, told USA TODAY Salman will likely face her first court appearance Tuesday.
CBS News said Salman also faces a charge of aiding and abetting.
Salman, in interviews with federal investigators after the shooting, allegedly acknowledged driving Mateen to the Pulse nightclub at least once before her husband launched the assault.
Salman told the Times in November that she was unaware of his true intentions until he sent her a 4:00 AM text message the night of the shooting, asking if she had seen what happened on the news.
According to Salman, the last message from her husband was a text message saying, “I love you babe.”
Salman met Mateen online and they married in 2011. The couple has a 3-year-old son. Salman, who has Palestinian roots, grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, Calif., about 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS PAPER)
Nine hurt, suspect killed in ‘terrifying’ Ohio State attack
John Bacon and Tinae A. Bluitt, USA TODAY 1:24 p.m. EST November 28, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man crashed his vehicle into pedestrians on the Ohio State campus Monday, then slashed students with a butcher knife before being fatally shot by a university police officer, authorities said.
Nine people were rushed to hospitals and one was in critical condition, according to university police chief Craig Stone. He said it did not immediately appear that the attacker used a gun.
“We are very fortunate that an OSUPD officer was there and took quick action,” Stone said.
The drama began shortly before 10 a.m. ET, when the suspect, who was not named, deliberately drove up over the curb and began his attack, he said.
“Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College” the university’s emergency management agency tweeted. “Run hide fight” is emergency protocol used to warn people to flee if possible, hide from the shooter and, if all else fails, fight for your life.
Later, the agency tweeted a warning to “Continue to shelter in place in north campus area. Follow directions of Police on scene.”
A SWAT team, K9 and bomb squad units and scores of law enforcement officials descended on the sprawling campus. Less than two hours after the first alert, university police said the shelter-in-place order was lifted and the “scene was secure.” Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.
“We prepare for situations like this but we hope we never have one,” school President Michael Drake said.
Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center said four patients were being treated there, none with life-threatening injuries. Victims were also taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
Peterson Pierre, a junior biochemistry major, said he woke up to the campus alert. He and his roommate decided to go outside and see what was happening.
“We saw a body covered with a white sheet,” Pierre said.
Other students hunkered down in their apartments, waiting for the threat to pass.
“It’s honestly kind of terrifying because I was at home and away from my phone at the time,” said Jenny Chen, who stayed in her apartment about two blocks from Watts Hall, listed on the school’s website as a Materials Science and Engineering building.
“I got flooded with messages … asking me if I was safe and I didn’t even realize this was happening,” said Chen, a senior. “Now I’m just scrambling to make sure that people I know are safe as well.”
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