First Thing: police killings will continue until system changes, grieving family says
More than 200 miles away from Memphis, as Tyre Nichols’ family mourned the beating to death of their son at the hands of police, Sylvia Askew was at home in Nashville taking care of her ailing husband, write Edwin Rios and Oliver Laughland.
Silvia knew how Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, felt. She, too, had struggled over the last week, just as she had every time a Black man in America was killed by police. A decade ago, on 17 January 2013, her 24-year-old son Steven Askew was shot and killed by two white Memphis police officers moments after he awoke in his car, waiting for his girlfriend outside her home.
“It’s been very hard,” Sylvia said of the past week. “It made me reflect on a system that has not changed.”
Nichols’ death sparked national outcry. People not just in Memphis but in cities across the country took to the streets and demanded change after the release of video footage that depicted Nichols’ beating by five officers. Steven Askew’s death, almost precisely a decade before Nichols was killed, and in a neighborhood less than 5 miles away, went largely unreported by national media.
What happened to Steven? On the night he was killed, Steven was parked outside an apartment complex, waiting to pick up his girlfriend, when he fell asleep in his car. Two Memphis police officers, Matthew Dyess and Ned Aufdenkamp, responded to an unrelated noise complaint nearby and approached Steven’s vehicle, saw him asleep in the driver’s seat, and spotted a firearm. Seconds after Steven woke, the officers opened fire, hitting Steven nine times, including six times in the back.
Why did they say they shot him? They said they spotted a firearm inside the vehicle, and claimed that as Steven woke he picked it up and pointed it. As the evidence would later show, their accounts were inconsistent and unreliable.
The man in charge of how the US spends $400bn to shift away from fossil fuels
Deep in the confines of the hulking, brutalist headquarters of the US Department of Energy, down one of its long, starkly lit corridors, sits a small, unheralded office that is poised to play a pivotal role in America’s shift away from fossil fuels and help the world stave off disastrous global heating.
The department’s loan programs office (LPO) was “essentially dormant” under Donald Trump, according to its head, Jigar Shah, but has now come roaring back with a huge warchest to bankroll emerging clean energy projects and technology, writes Oliver Milman.
Last year’s vast Inflation Reduction Act grew the previously moribund office’s loan authority to $140bn, while adding a new program worth another $250bn in loan guarantees to retool projects that help cut planet-heating emissions. Which means that Shah, a debonair former clean energy entrepreneur and podcast host who matches his suits with pristine Stan Smiths, oversees resources comparable to the GDP of Norway – all to help turbocharge solar, wind, batteries and a host of other climate technologies in the US.
With a newly divided Congress stymieing any new climate legislation in the foreseeable future, Shah has emerged as one of Washington’s most powerful figures in the effort to confront global heating. Shah says such focus on him is “hyperbolic”, but the White House is pinning much of its climate agenda on an office that barely had a dozen people when Shah joined in March 2021. It now has more than 200 staffers as it scrambles to distribute billions in loans to projects across the US.
What does Shah say about the work he has to do? “I hold myself to outcomes. I don’t hold myself to best efforts. I feel like there’s a lot of people who are like, ‘well, I gave it my best’. And I was like, ‘well, I mean, that’s not enough. You either have reduced climate emissions or you haven’t.’”
Why prosecutors might get Trump – and not Biden – for classified documents
Donald Trump’s retention of classified-marked documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort is distinguished in the eyes of the justice department from that of Joe Biden or Mike Pence as a result of one particularly crucial difference: suspected obstruction of justice.
Legal experts believe the situation for the former US president is more perilous than others swept up in the scandal because of his reluctance to cooperate at key moments in the investigation and his unwillingness to proactively search his properties for marked documents after becoming aware that he possessed such papers.
The justice department has added in court filings that it suspected Trump of concealing classified-marked documents at Mar-a-Lago – and while that might be the most aggressive characterization, the trouble for Trump is that he has handled his case far differently from Biden and Pence.
The recent discoveries of marked documents, first at Biden’s office in Washington and home in Delaware, and then at Pence’s home in Indiana, reflect how presidential transitions are chaotic and senior government officials are clearly unaware of the contents of boxes packed by aides.
What do the experts say? “If they found Trump took them away, purposely, but then as soon as the archives said he had, he said ‘oops, sorry, here have them back,’ I don’t think they would be considering charges,” the former US attorney Harry Litman said of the criminal investigation into Trump.
Pentagon says it is monitoring Chinese spy balloon spotted flying over US
The Pentagon has said it is tracking a Chinese “spy balloon” flying over the US but decided against shooting it down for safety reasons.
Defense officials said the balloon had been watched since it entered US airspace at high altitude a couple days ago. It has been monitored by several methods including crewed aircraft, and has most recently been tracked crossing Montana, where the US has silo-based nuclear missiles. As a precaution, flights out of Billings Logan airport were suspended on Wednesday.
The Chinese government has not confirmed if it owns the balloon, and state-backed media have used the incident to taunt the US.
“The balloon itself is a big target,” the state-backed nationalistic tabloid the Global Times wrote in English on Twitter, which is banned in China. “If balloons from other countries could really enter continental US smoothly, or even enter the sky over certain states, it only proves that the US’s air defense system is completely a decoration and cannot be trusted.”
What are spy balloons? A spy balloon is a piece of spying equipment, for example a camera suspended beneath a balloon, that floats above a given area, carried by wind currents. The equipment attached to the balloons may include radar and could be solar powered.
Why are they still being used? “For the last few decades, satellites were de rigueur. Satellites were the answer,” says John Blaxland, a professor of international security. But now that lasers or kinetic weapons are being invented to target satellites, there is a resurgence of interest in balloons.
In other news …
A New Jersey borough council member was found shot dead in an SUV outside her home, authorities said. Eunice Dwumfour, 30, was found at about 7.20pm on Wednesday, according to the Middlesex county prosecutor’s office. She had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A convicted killer believed to belong to one of Italy’s most powerful mafia organisations has been discovered working as a pizza chef and arrested after 16 years on the run. Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ’Ndrangheta, a mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.
The prosecutor general’s office of Ukraine has pressed criminal charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group of mercenaries fighting on the Russian side in Ukraine. Prigozhin has been charged with encroaching on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and of waging a war of aggression.
Two Virginia high school basketball coaches have lost their jobs after one of them posed as a student athlete and played in a game for their team. The assistant coach at the center of the failed caper – who has been identified as Arlisha Boykins, 22 – impersonated a 13-year-old.
Don’t miss this: ‘The families deserve answers’– inside the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women
Lackluster responses and languishing cases are the norm for many families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, an epidemic in the US and Canada that in recent years has received significant national media attention, though few answers for loved ones. Investigations “usually end up having to be done by the family and the community members themselves”, Lucy Simpson, the executive director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, told the Guardian. “In so many of these cases, it’s the family that finds their loved one, that does the search to find their loved one, because law enforcement doesn’t participate, or doesn’t feel that it’s a priority, or makes excuses based on generally accepted stereotypes about Native people.”
Climate check: Swallowed fishing gear and plastic most likely cause of Hawaii whale’s death
A sperm whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend died probably in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said yesterday, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year. The whale’s stomach contained six hagfish traps, seven types of fishing net, two types of plastic bags, a light protector, fishing line and a float from a net. Researchers also found squid beaks, fish skeletons and remains of other prey in the whale’s stomach. Scientists say more than 35m tons (31.9m tonnes) of plastic pollution is produced on Earth each year and about a quarter of that ends up in the water.
Last Thing: Wave of ‘sushi terrorism’ grips Japan’s restaurant world
There are breaches of etiquette – drenching your rice in soy sauce, for one – and then there are heinous acts of “sushi terrorism”. Japan’s signature cuisine is at the centre of a police investigation after customers at revolving sushi restaurants posted video clips of themselves interfering with food and playing pranks on other customers, including putting wasabi on passing pieces of sushi and licking the open top of a communal soy sauce bottle. While the small number of incidents hardly points to a sushi crime wave, the videos have sparked uproar in Japan, where the industry is worth an estimated ¥740bn (£4.7bn/$5.7bn), and prompted operators to rethink how they serve their dishes.
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