Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wake-Up Call: Nashville Community Mourns

Hundreds gathered Wednesday night for the citywide vigil to mourn for the three children and three adults who were killed at The Covenant School in Nashville earlier this week. The crowd of mourners stood shoulder-to-shoulder holding small white candles as speaker after speaker honored the six victims. First lady Jill Biden visited Covenant earlier and stood alongside the rest of the vigil's attendees. Nashville Mayor John Cooper stepped up to the podium first. "Just two days ago was our city's worst day," Cooper said. "... I so wish we did not need to be here, but we need to be here — together as a community."

➤MANIFESTO TO BE RELEASED: Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale’s pre-killing spree manifesto is set to be released to the public after the FBI and its’ highly skilled team of criminal profilers analyze its contents, a Nashville Council Member said. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit is working “in tandem with” the Metro Nashville Police Department to complete “a very in-depth analysis of certain aspects of the shooter’s life,” Robert Swope said Wednesday.

“The manifesto is going to be released. It’s just a matter of when. There are some incredibly brilliant psychological minds and psychological analysts combing through her entire life,” added Swope, who is a member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Transgender Hale, 28, left behind the manifesto as well as detailed maps of the school she methodically planned to attack, leaving three schoolchildren and three staff dead. The shooter arrived at the Covenant School around 9:54 a.m. Monday, exterior surveillance images show.

➤HALE SAID TO HAVE BEEN 'HEARTBROKEN': Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale was “heartbroken” over the 2022 death of a girl she was “infatuated” with, who had played on the same basketball team in school. Samira Hardcastle told The Post “tomboyish” Hale had been deeply affected by the death of Sydney Sims, who was killed in a vehicle accident in August 2022, according to an obituary. Hardcastle, a classmate of both girls in middle and high school, said, “After Sydney’s tragic death, Audrey was really heartbroken over it … I just feel like she took it differently than some of us did. She was still posting about Sydney almost daily. “What I knew of her was more admiring [Sydney]. Maybe even infatuation. That’s specifically who she really, really looked up to.” Hale, who police said was transgender and had started to identify using he/him pronouns, posted a TikTok in February on a since-deleted account, “iam_aiden10,” dedicated to “Syd”.

Multiple people are feared dead after two army helicopters collided in the air above Kentucky Wednesday night, officials said. The two 101st Airborne Division helicopters crashed during a routine training mission over Trigg County at around 10 p.m., Fort Campbell officials said. Early Thursday, Army officials at the fort said the status of the crewmembers who were aboard each HH60 Blackhawk copter was unknown. However an Army soldier at the scene of the wreck told local radio station WKDZ that multiple people had died and the county coroner had been called. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also said he suspects there will be multiple fatalities.

TROOPS REPORTED TO BE RAMPING UP:  Russia and Ukraine are ramping up their military forces in southern Ukraine amid signs that the fighting may soon escalate, a United Nations official said on Wednesday after crossing a front line held by the Ukrainian military to inspect a nuclear power plant seized by Moscow. “It is obvious that military activity is increasing in this whole region, so every possible measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected,” said the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Just hours before Mr. Grossi spoke, a new round of explosions shook Melitopol, a Russian-occupied city in the same region as the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Some Ukrainian officials have said the city is a likely target in a counteroffensive mounted by Kyiv to reclaim land lost to Moscow after Russia invaded 13 months ago.

➤UKRAINE HOLDS KEY CITY DESPITE RUSSIAN GAINS: Russian forces have had some success in the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian military officials said on Wednesday evening, adding that their fighters were still holding on in a battle that has lasted several months. In southern Ukraine, the United Nations nuclear watchdog chief said there had been a significant increase in the number of troops in the region of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia power plant and it could no longer be protected. The mining city of Bakhmut and surrounding towns in the eastern industrial region of Donetsk have been the focal point of assault for much of the 13-month-long invasion by Russia of neighboring Ukraine. Neither side has full control and both have suffered heavy losses. "Enemy forces had a degree of success in their actions aimed at storming the city of Bakhmut," the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a regular nighttime report.

➤BIDENS TO VISIT TORNADO RAVAGED MISS.: President Joe Biden will travel to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on Friday to tour storm damage and meet with those affected by the deadly tornadoes that killed more than two dozen people last week. “The president and the first lady will visit with first responders, state and local officials, and communities,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday evening. Biden has come under criticism from Republicans who say his decision to, so far, not visit the site of a fiery train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, illustrates his lack of interest in rural communities. But Biden has toured other rural disaster areas during his term, including parts of Kentucky hit by severe flooding.

SENATE REPEALS WAR POWERS APPROVAL: The U.S. Senate has repealed two authorizations for military action in Iraq that were approved more than 20 years ago. The vote to repeal the authorization passed by 66 to 30 votes. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote. Opponents of the measure want a new authorization that would allow for counterterrorism activities around the world.
  • The Senate also approved a measure to overturn a new White House rule designed to protect the nation’s water supply from contamination. The House has already approved it. This is mostly a symbolic poke in the eye for President Joe Biden, who is certain to veto it.

➤FETTERMAN EXPECTED TO RETURN TO SENATE IN APRIL: Senator John Fetterman will return to the US Senate the week of April 17, two months after checking himself into a hospital for depression, according to a person familiar with the Pennsylvania Democrat’s plans. Fetterman, 53, entered Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Feb. 15. A spokesman previously said the senator was “on a path to recovery,” and receiving daily visits from relatives and his staff.  The former lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania won election to the Senate last fall despite suffering a stroke shortly before the Democratic primary and being sidelined for much of the campaign. Shortly before entering Walter Reed, he was hospitalized after feeling lightheaded.  Depression is common following a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association. Fetterman’s office said the senator had experienced depression throughout his life but it became more severe in the past year. 

➤MUSK, OTHERS URGE A-I PAUSE: Several tech and artificial-intelligence bigwigs want to pause AI development for six months or more. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak were among the signatories of an open letter coordinated by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, which lists Musk as an external adviser. The letter urged companies to temporarily stop training systems more powerful than GPT-4, the technology that Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI released this month. The hiatus would give the industry time to set safety standards for AI design and head off the potential harm the riskiest AI technologies could cause, advocates say.

➤COVID EMERGENCY ENDING: The Senate voted on Wednesday to immediately end the COVID-19 national emergency — and the White House has indicated that President Biden will finally sign the bill into law, months after declaring the pandemic was “over.” The resolution passed the upper chamber in a 68-23 vote, with 21 Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill. In February, the measure passed the GOP-controlled House in a 229-197 vote.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly told Democrats before the vote that President Biden, who plans to end the emergency declaration on May 11, would not veto the legislation if it reaches his desk – which it now will. 

➤NARCAN APPROVED FOR OVER-THE-COUNTER SALE: The leading product used to reverse overdoses of opioids will now be available over the counter in pharmacies. Narcan is the brand name of the nasal spray containing naloxone, which can reverse overdoses of street drugs like heroin and fentanyl as well as prescription drugs containing oxycodone. The Food and Drug Administration approved its non-prescription sale yesterday in order to improve access to this life-saving drug.

➤POPE MAY BE IN HOSPITAL FOR EASTER: Pope Francis was hospitalized with a pulmonary infection after having difficulty breathing and will remain in treatment for several days, the Vatican said. Francis, 86, was taken to the hospital for tests that “showed a respiratory infection (Covid 19 infection excluded) which will require some days of appropriate medical therapy,” the Vatican said in a statement late Wednesday. The pope had part of one lung removed in his youth due to an infection. He was well enough earlier in the day to appear at his regularly scheduled audience.

➤DeSANTIS DIPS IN POLLING: DeSantis has not publicly declared he’s running for president. But a few polls showed a recent dip in support for the governor as a presidential contender after he had to revise his position on the war in Ukraine and has faced sustained attacks from Trump. Some donors are reportedly questioning his readiness to take on the former president, according to NBC News. DeSantis’ political spokesperson did not respond to two emails seeking comment. While insiders caution these developments will likely represent a blip in the long marathon of a presidential race, these challenges also underscore just how difficult it will be to run against Trump.

➤LAY-OFFS REPORTS AT GAME CREATOR:  Electronic Arts Inc. said it is laying off about 6% of its workforce and reducing its office-space footprint to focus its spending on the best growth opportunities in the videogame industry. The maker of hit franchises such as “Madden NFL” and “The Sims” didn’t specify how many people would be let go or from which departments. In the middle of last year, it said it had nearly 13,000 employees. That would translate into around 780 job cuts. The company said it plans to redeploy some of the affected employees to other areas. EA said the layoffs began earlier this quarter and are expected to continue through the early part of its next fiscal year, which begins in April. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company also said it is trimming its real-estate spending and restructuring some teams.

⚾OPENING DAY IS HERE: Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and it’s a big one. For the first time since 1968, all 30 teams will play their first games of the season on day one. Hint: You’ll have to stay up late to catch them all. If you’re interested in predictions, Sports Illustrated picks the New York Yankees over the San Francisco Giants, the Cleveland Guardians over the Seattle Mariners, and the Houston Astros over the Chicago White Sox.

🏈MARVIN JONES JR. HEADS FOR DETROIT: Free agent wide receiver Marvin Jones Junior is about to sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the Detroit Lions, according to a report by ESPN. It will be a homecoming for Jones, who spent four seasons with the Lions before moving to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

🏈CALAIS CAMPBELL IS MOVING TO ATLANTA: Defensive end Calais Campbell has got a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, the NFL Network reports. At 36, he’s the NFL’s oldest active defensive lineman.

🎾CIRSTEA MAKES A COMEBACK AT MIAMI OPEN: Sorana Cirstea made it to the WTA 1000 semi-final for the first time in a decade after defeating world number two-ranked Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets at the Miami Open quarterfinals. Cirstea, who ranks 74th in the world, defeated Sabalenka 6-4, 6-4. It will be the Romanian’s first appearance at a WTA 1000 semifinal since Toronto in 2013.Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu sent a message to fans that her departure from the Miami Open on Monday was due to two torn ligaments in her left ankle. The 2019 U.S. Open champion was taken off the court in a wheelchair after she collapsed during a round of 16 match against Ekaterina Alexandrova on Monday. Andreescu remains upbeat, saying “it could have been worse.”

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