Wednesday, May 18, 2022
US preparing for violence after Roe decision, Tuesday election results, stocks tumble Wednesday, historic women's soccer agreement, COVID cases tick up, Ukraine latest and more.
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Happy Wednesday. Here’s a quick look at what’s happening:
The U.S. government is bracing for a potential surge in political violence once the Supreme Court hands down the ruling that's expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, Axios reports:
Law enforcement agencies are investigating social-media threats to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building and murder justices and their clerks, as well as attacks targeting places of worship and abortion clinics.
The unclassified May 13 memo by DHS' intelligence arm says threats that followed the leak of a draft opinion — targeting Supreme Court Justices, lawmakers and other public officials, as well as clergy and health care providers — "are likely to persist and may increase leading up to and following the issuing of the Court’s official ruling."
Abortion-related violence historically has been driven by anti-abortion extremists.
"Some racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists’ embrace of pro-life narratives may be linked to the perception of wanting to 'save white children' and 'fight white genocide,'" the memo also says.
But the memo warns that this time, extremist acts could come from abortion-rights proponents as well.
"The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics does not constitute domestic violent extremism or illegal activity and is constitutionally protected."
In response to a request for comment from Axios, a DHS spokesperson said the department “is committed to protecting Americans' freedom of speech and other civil rights and civil liberties, including the right to peacefully protest.
"DHS is also committed to working with our partners across every level of government and the private sector to share timely information and intelligence, prevent all forms of violence, and to support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe.”
The Associated Press with the latest from Tuesday’s primary elections: Heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick went into Wednesday essentially tied in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat, expected to be among the nation’s most competitive races in the fall:
The contest was within a couple thousand votes overnight, out of more than 1.2 million cast. Trailing in a distant third place in the seven-person GOP primary field was conservative activist Kathy Barnette.
The Associated Press has not called the race. Some counties had yet to tabulate all of their mail-in ballots and the counting of provisional, overseas and military absentee ballots could last all week.
There is no runoff law in Pennsylvania. But the race was close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, with the separation between Oz and McCormick inside the 0.5% margin that prompts an order by the state’s top election official.
Oz and McCormick emerged at their election night watch parties after midnight to say they would have to wait for vote-counting to resume Wednesday to determine a winner, with each saying he was confident of victory. There are no plans for either candidate to make a public appearance, though former President Donald Trump has encouraged Oz to preemptively declare victory. Oz has not made any suggestion that he will do so.
More results from Tuesday:
-NBC News: State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a far-right Republican who built a large following seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, is the GOP nominee for governor.
-CNN: Rep. Ted Budd rode an endorsement from former President Donald Trump to victory in North Carolina's Republican Senate primary.
-WNCN-TV: Cheri Beasley has won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in North Carolina’s primary election.
-NPR: Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a freshman Republican who's been beset by scandal since taking office last year, has been ousted in a heated primary in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.
-Idaho Press: Idaho Gov. Brad Little defeated seven challengers in the state’s GOP primary on Tuesday but still will face multiple rivals in the November election.
-Oregonian: Oregonians are headed for an all female race for governor in November, after former House Speaker Tina Kotek won the Democratic nomination Tuesday and former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan appeared to win the GOP race.
-Oregonian: Rep. Kurt Schrader’s future in Congress was still on the line Wednesday morning, as still-partial returns showed fellow Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner mounting a robust challenge to the seven-term incumbent U.S. House member.
-McClatchy: Charles Booker became the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Kentucky on Tuesday, setting up his long-shot challenge to Sen. Rand Paul in November.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 1,000 points Wednesday, as big earnings misses by Target and other major retailers stoked investors’ fears that surging inflation could cut deeply into corporate profits. From AP:
The broad sell-off erased gains from a solid rally a day earlier, the latest volatile day-to-day swing for stocks in recent weeks amid a deepening market slump.
The S&P 500 fell 3.8% as of 1:53 p.m. Eastern. The benchmark index is now down 18% from the record high it reached at the beginning of the year. That’s shy of the 20% decline that’s considered a bear market.
The Dow was down 1,092 points, or 3.3%, at 31,565, and the Nasdaq fell 4.5%.
Retailers were among the biggest decliners after Target plunged following a grim quarterly earnings report.
The retailer lost a quarter of its value after reporting earnings that fell far short of analysts’ forecasts, while citing higher costs. Target said its operating margin for the first quarter was 5.3%. It had been expecting 8% or higher.
More news on the economy:
CNN: The Biden administration is working directly with infant formula manufacturer Reckitt and retailers, including Target, to provide logistical support as it works to help alleviate a nationwide formula shortage.
CNBC: Scammers are exploiting a nationwide baby formula shortage, tricking consumers into paying hefty prices through fraudulent online stores, the FTC said Wednesday.
Los Angeles Times: On Wednesday the average cost for a gallon of regular gas in Los Angeles reached $6.08, leaping 2.3 cents overnight and breaking a record set earlier this year, according to the latest data from AAA.
AP: As President Joe Biden embarks for Asia on Thursday, he’s facing a new risk at home for the economy and his Democratic Party: a global slowdown caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic shutting down Chinese cities and factories.
Fox Business reports that the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams reached a historic agreement Wednesday on equalized compensation for the first time in history:
The collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) will run through 2028. The deal equalizes prize money, benefits and other revenue between the two teams. The USSF is the first national governing body in sports to guarantee both sexes matching money.
"This is a truly historic moment. These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world," U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said in a news release. "U.S. Soccer and the USWNT and USMNT players have reset their relationship with these new agreements and are leading us forward to an incredibly exciting new phase of mutual growth and collaboration as we continue our mission to become the preeminent sport in the United States."
Cone added: "I am grateful for the commitment and collaboration of both the men’s and women’s National Teams and I am incredibly proud of the hard work that has led to this moment. Everyone who cares about our sport should share in this pride as we look forward to working together to grow soccer for generations to come."
U.S. national soccer team players association member Walker Zimmerman, who is in the leadership group, said he hoped this would set the bar for FIFA and other nations around the world.
"They said equal pay for men and women was not possible, but that did not stop us and we went ahead and achieved it. We hope this will awaken others to the need for this type of change, and will inspire FIFA and others around the world to move in the same direction," he said.
Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, NBC News reports:
As part of the plea deal a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder was dismissed, a spokesperson for Ellison’s office said.
The state and defense jointly recommended to the court that Lane be sentenced to three years, the spokesperson said. His sentencing is set for Sept. 21.
“Today my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family. Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today,” Ellison said in a statement.
“I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death. His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation,” he continued. “While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”
He offered no other comments, saying the state is preparing for the June 13 trial of former Minneapolis Police Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao on charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, told NBC News his client made the decision that allows him to be part of his child's life.
"The State prosecution has a mandatory 12 year sentence if convicted of the unintentional murder. My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a three year sentence, to be released in two years, and the murder case dismissed," Gray said. "The sentence will be concurrent with his federal sentence and he will serve his time in a federal institution. He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life."
Also from Minnesota, KARE-TV reports that the city of Minneapolis will pay Jaleel Kevin Stallings $1.5 million plus legal fees to settle a lawsuit alleging he was beaten by Minneapolis police officers during a night of unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
AP: The Department of Homeland Security paused its new disinformation governance board Wednesday and the board’s director will resign, following weeks of criticism from Republicans and questions about whether the board would impinge on free speech rights.
While the board was not formally shuttered, it will be reviewed by members of a DHS advisory council that’s expected to make recommendations in 75 days. Nina Jankowicz, picked to lead the board, wrote in her resignation letter that the board’s future was “uncertain,” according to her letter, obtained by The Associated Press.
Federal and state agencies treat disinformation as a national security threat. But the new board was hampered from the start by questions about its purpose and an uneven rollout that further confused its mission. The phrase “Ministry of Truth” — a reference to George Orwell’s “1984” — has repeatedly trended online in discussions about the board.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the decision in response to the cumulative negative reaction and growing concerns that it was distracting from the department’s other work on disinformation, according to two department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner,” the department said in a statement. “It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights.”
‘Pharma bro’ fraudster Martin Shkreli was released from a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Wednesday and into a U.S. Bureau of Prisons halfway house at an undisclosed location in New York to complete the rest of his criminal sentence, CNBC reports:
In a throwback to the days when Shkreli was one of the most prominent trolls on Twitter, a friend of his tweeted a photo of them together smiling in a car after his release, with the caption: “Picked up this guy hitchhiking. Says he’s famous.”
His friend was wearing a t-shirt featuring a photo of Shkreli smirking during testimony before Congress, with the words, “Free Shkreli” underneath it.
“Getting out of real prison is easier than getting out of Twitter prison,” Shkreli wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday, referring to his ban from Twitter, which dates to his harassment of a female journalist in 2017.
Shkreli, a 39-year-old New York City resident who was convicted of securities fraud in 2017, previously was due to be released from the Allenwood low-security federal correctional institution on Sept. 14.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States:
-Gothamist: New York City’s risk level for COVID-19 upgraded from medium to high on Tuesday, according to a bulletin from the city’s Health Commissioner.
-Reuters: Health officials are considering extending the eligibility for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to people under 50 amid a steady rise in cases, with the United States seeing a threefold increase over the past month.
-The Guardian: The White House resumed its coronavirus briefings on Wednesday after a six-week hiatus as COVID-19 cases rose across the nation, with the new head of COVID response calling on Congress for additional funding to pay for vaccines and treatments.
-Reuters: The U.S. National Institutes of Health is in talks with Pfizer about studying whether a longer course of the drugmaker's COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid is needed to prevent reinfections
-The Hill: President Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and had to scrap plans to join her mother, first lady Jill Biden, on a trip to Latin America.
Reuters: Russia said on Wednesday nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol but Kyiv was silent about their fate, while a pro-Russian separatist leader said commanders were still holed up in tunnels beneath the Azovstal steelworks.
USA Today: A Russian sergeant pleaded guilty Wednesday at Ukraine's first war crimes trial to fatally shooting an unarmed civilian in the northeastern Sumy region four days after the invasion began.
A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war pleaded guilty to killing a Ukrainian civilian. The soldier is accused of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in the early says of the invasion. He faces up to life in prison.
CNN: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States raised its flag over the US embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday in what he called a “momentous step,” marking the reopening of the embassy after it closed three months ago ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
AP: NATO envoys failed to reach a consensus on Wednesday about whether to start membership talks with Finland and Sweden, diplomats said, as Turkey renewed its objections to the two Nordic countries joining.
A few more stories before we go:
The Post Standard: The gunman accused of killing 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store mentioned Syracuse while discussing potential targets online.
Gunman considered targets in Syracuse, Rochester and across Buffalo before concluding Tops was 'best option'