Congress passed two pandemic relief packages in 2020 in an effort to keep small businesses afloat, but newly-opened shops say they have been left out of the legislation.
- The New York Times
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Crystal Deck was opening presents on Christmas morning at her brother’s home when she heard the news that an enormous explosion had ripped through the historic heart of Nashville. She knew instantly that the bomber was her dearest friend, Anthony Q. Warner, and quickly began fitting together clues that he had dropped, including a series of peculiar episodes she had dismissed as inconsequential, but which proved to be central to his suicidal plot. Deck had, weeks earlier, found him fiddling with a prerecorded female voice on his laptop. And he had played her the 1964 Petula Clark hit “Downtown,” praising the song’s “significant spirit.” Both became eerie elements of the bombing. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Warner had even cautioned her that he was hatching something that would bring the police to her door, yet until that moment she had not understood the magnitude of his plan. “I had just texted him ‘Merry Christmas!’” she said, crying at the memory. Warner, the authorities said, drove his booby-trapped white recreational vehicle to Second Avenue North in the predawn hours. The detonation damaged some 50 buildings, collapsing a few and shearing the antique brick facades off others that will require years and tens of millions of dollars to restore. Two months later, the blast area remains a confused, desolate patchwork of boarded-up buildings, Cyclone fencing and uneven reconstruction efforts. The explosion, in front of an AT&T hub, crippled cellular, internet and cable service across several states for two days and underscored the vulnerability of such common yet unprotected facilities. Though Warner’s motive remains shrouded, false information and outlandish tales had poisoned his mind, apparently driving him to spectacular violence. This mindset has become alarmingly familiar to law enforcement officials now reckoning with the destructive force of conspiracy theories that mutate endlessly online and played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Warner, who was 63 when he died, was not among the angry QAnon followers who came to believe the unlikely theory that Donald Trump would hold onto power and defeat a satanic cabal. He was a computer specialist with a deep distrust of government, according to his own writings and to those who knew him. A loner, he had made at least one female friend feel manipulated and frightened. And he had cultivated a bizarre obsession with shape-shifting alien lizards and a dense thicket of other peculiar ideas. As Warner’s best friend in his final months, Deck believes that some combination of a fatal cancer diagnosis salted with a belief in conspiracy theories led Warner to kill himself in such a brutally spectacular manner. “He was trying to escape,” said Deck, who is not considered a suspect. “He talked about going out on his own terms.” The FBI and other federal and local law enforcement agencies investigating the bombing have not made any findings public, although officials said they expect a report by early March. Whatever else might have been on Warner’s mind in the period leading up to his death, he had been fixated for years on the notion that alien reptiles who inhabited underground tunnels controlled the earth, a fantasy spread by a notorious British serial conspiracy theorist. The giant lizards, Warner said, appeared among us as humans. By the summer of 2019, he was making a friend, Pamela Perry, increasingly anxious, according to Raymond Throckmorton III, a Nashville lawyer who had represented both Perry and Warner on various matters. “Pam Perry had had numerous contacts with me where she was just emotionally distraught and had been just really whipped into a frenzy of emotion by apparently crazy things or threatening or unusual things that Tony had said to her,” Throckmorton said. “I think he just sensed that she was at a weak point in her life and it was somebody he could dominate, manipulate or control.” In August 2019, Perry told police that she believed Warner was building bombs in the RV parked outside his house on Bakertown Lane, and Throckmorton told the police that Warner that was capable of building explosives. Officers went to his home but neither the Nashville police nor the FBI pursued an investigation. A police and municipal review committee is now scrutinizing why. Perry, through lawyers, declined to comment. Deck, 44, first met Warner several months later, when he came into the South Nashville Waffle House where she worked. “The first time I met him, I just thought his cornbread wasn’t really done in the middle and he was off a little bit,” she said. She described two distinct sides to him. There was the man who spent countless hours glued to his computer, steeping himself in eccentric plots. But there was also the man who fixed the windshield wipers on her Nissan pickup, repaired her computer, paid the tab for dozens of other diners at the Waffle House and took her Yorkie, Bubba, for walks in the park. But when Deck began frequenting Warner’s two-bedroom duplex in the Antioch area of Nashville, he told her that no one had visited for 20 years. His distrust of the government dated to roughly the same period, as he subscribed to the 9/11 conspiracy theory that it was an inside job rather than an al-Qaida terrorist attack. It seemed to Deck he started on the path that led him to downtown Nashville at least 20 years ago. “He kept saying, ‘9/11 is what did it for me’,” she said. Warner grew up in Nashville, attending local Catholic schools. He served two years in the Navy, in the mid-1970s. He never mentioned his family except for a dead brother, Deck said. His mother and sister declined to be interviewed. Tom Lundborg, 57, who runs a Nashville-based electronic security firm, said he first met Warner years ago when Warner was working as a technician for the company, then run by Lundborg’s parents. Warner, in his 20s, owned a beautiful car and was dating his own cousin, Lundborg recalled. “He was a really nice-looking guy back then,” Lundborg said. “He had long fluffy hair, a ‘Magnum, P.I.’-.type mustache. Girls liked him.” Warner soon left to set up his own alarm business and took a client with him, Lundborg said, leaving his parents feeling exploited. He tangled, too, with his own family, becoming embroiled in a court battle with his elderly mother in 2019, for example, after trying to give away his late brother’s house, where she lived. In recent years he earned money through freelance IT work for local businesses, including answering service calls. “He was real proud of his computer skills,” Deck said. “He loved how smart he was.” Warner also camped regularly in Montgomery Bell State Park, west of Nashville, a pastime that fed his conspiracy obsessions — he considered the park to be prime ground for hunting alien reptilians. He described struggling to spot them with an infrared device, believing they could adjust their body temperature to the surrounding environment, and warned that bullets would just bounce off. “If you try to hunt one, you will find that you are the one being hunted,” he wrote. Warner composed countless essays that he printed out or loaded onto flash drives, distributing them to Deck and other friends and acquaintances. American conspiracy theories that attract a wide audience tend to be built around historic events like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, while the notion of shape-shifting lizards remains obscure. The idea gained adherents in the late 1990s after an infamous British conspiracy theorist, David Icke, wrote about it, accusing Queen Elizabeth II, the Bush dynasty and the Rothschilds of being reptilians. He organized seminars that ended with participants trying to dance away the “lizard power,” said Joseph Uscinski, a professor at the University of Miami and co-author of a book called “American Conspiracy Theories.” Now, in retrospect, Deck dredges her memory for clues of what was to come. By the time she met him, Warner was clearly preparing for a transition. He had largely emptied his house, save for an air mattress and a computer in the living room. He hinted that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but she did not pry. In early December, he sent a letter to his IT clients, telling them that he was retiring. He deeded his house to the daughter of a former girlfriend. Deck saw him last on Dec. 17, when he showed up at the Waffle House to give her his car, a white 2007 Pontiac Vibe, along with the jacket and gloves he used to wear when he walked her dog. He implied that he had little time left. On Christmas morning, surveillance camera footage released by the Nashville Metro Police showed that Warner drove his RV downtown at 1:22 a.m. He parked on a tree-lined street filled with Victorian-era red brick warehouses and some new buildings housing restaurants, condominiums and souvenir stores. It runs perpendicular to Broadway, known for its brightly lit honky-tonks and live music, the main draw for tourists. Several residents, awakened around 4:30 a.m. by what sounded like loud, rapid bursts of gunfire, phoned the police. The officers who responded found no indication of shots fired, and Deck said that Warner used gunfire noises as a ring tone on his cellphone. He apparently used the sound that morning to attract attention, because a computerized, female voice — the voice Deck had heard him manipulating weeks earlier — soon began emanating from the vehicle, saying, “Stay clear of this vehicle, evacuate now. Do not approach this vehicle!” The police evacuated as many residents as they could. The voice, more insistent, announced that the vehicle would detonate. It began a 15-minute countdown, interspersed with continued warnings to evacuate as well as snippets from the song “Downtown.” “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown.” At 6:30 a.m., surveillance video showed, a giant fireball erupted around the RV and the resulting concussion rocked the neighborhood. Already largely deserted on a holiday morning amid a pandemic, its scattered residents managed to flee before the explosion. Warner was the only person killed. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Three men suspected of having supplied the bomb which killed Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 were arrested on Tuesday, police said. Their arrest came as a man accused of carrying out the killing agreed to a plea deal, accepting his responsibility for the assassination in return for a reduced, 15-year jail term instead of possible life behind bars. A legal source said Vince Muscat had provided police with vital information about the case, which has shone a spotlight on corruption in the European Union's smallest country.
- The Independent
Emotional Merrick Garland says he wants to pay US back for taking in his grandparents when they fled persecution
‘This is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back,’ says Judge Garland in testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee
The mother of an 11-year-old boy who died after they lost electricity and heat in their Texas mobile home during last week's freeze has filed a $100 million lawsuit against two power companies for gross negligence. Maria Pineda said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corp are responsible for the death of her son Cristian, who was found unresponsive on the morning of Feb. 16 at home, where he shared a bed with his 3-year-old brother. More than 4 million people in Texas lost power and at least two dozen people died after a snowstorm blanketed the state last week and sent temperatures plunging well below freezing.
- WCVB - Boston
Officials said they recovered the body of a man Monday who disappeared while swimming in an icy Wareham pond.
- The Telegraph
The family of an 11-year-old boy who died during a cold weather snap in Texas have filed a $100m lawsuit against power companies who were “wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand.” Cristian Pineda went to sleep in the mobile home where he lived with his mother, stepfather and two young brothers on February 15, but did not wake up the next day. The thin-walled, poorly insulated home in Conroe, just north of Houston, lost power in the freezing temperatures and the lawsuit accuses utility firms of putting "profits over the welfare of people" by failing to prepare properly. It was -12 degrees on the night that Christian died, the family says. "Despite having knowledge of the dire weather forecast for at least a week in advance, and the knowledge that the system was not prepared for more than a decade, Ercot and Entergy failed to take any peremptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand," the lawsuit alleges.
Since the couple recently announced they wouldn't be returning to royal duties, they will have more freedom this time around.
Over the past year Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has engineered the largest economic rescue in U.S. history, thrown a controversial lifeline to companies hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and steered a sweeping labor-friendly revamp of monetary policy that any presidential administration would welcome. Is it enough to earn the 68-year-old former investment banker four more years as the head of the U.S. central bank?That question will get increased attention during this, the final year of Powell's term, and the conversation may start as early as this week when the Fed chief delivers his semi-annual update on the economy in two hearings before Congress. The testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday will be Powell's first since President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats took control of the White House and Capitol Hill.
'The Bachelor' creator Mike Fleiss is selling the 'plantation-style' Hawaii home he bought from Julia Roberts
Mike Fleiss, executive producer and creator of "The Bachelor," is asking $34.5 million for the Hawaii home once owned by Julia Roberts.
Luca Attanasio and two other people die after his UN convoy is attacked near Goma.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday he was "sickened" by allegations of sexual assault in Parliament House, adding that there was a "culture" problem at the government building. Brittany Higgins said on Friday, in a statement reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), that the man had raped her two years ago in parliament. Morrison apologised to Higgins on Tuesday for the way her complaint was handled at that time, ordering a probe into the government's workplace culture.
- ABC News Videos
ABC News’ Trevor Ault traveled to South Dakota where a tribal nurse travels dozens of miles to vaccinate her community.
- WCVB - Boston
The COVID-19 journey for a local husband and wife who recently shared the story about their experience has taken a positive turn.
- Associated Press
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is looking to another stretch of solitary confinement after this year's postseason. “I usually don’t talk to too many people for a couple weeks after the season is over with,” Judge said after Tuesday. New York lost to Houston in the 2017 and 2019 AL Championship Series, to Boston in the 2018 AL Division Series and to Tampa Bay in the 2020 AL Division Series.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are becoming a "transnational threat" and have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to boost their support. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, Guterres said the danger of hate-driven groups was growing daily. Without naming states, Guterres added: "Today, these extremist movements represent the number one internal security threat in several countries."
- The State
Blue Devils match season high with 13 3-pointers
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Any person that would risk their life to save his pets is a small glimpse of what an incredible person this was,” one woman said.
The United States said on Monday it was outraged by rocket attacks on coalition forces and others in Iraq but stressed it would not "lash out" and would respond at a time and place of its choosing. "We have seen the reports of the rocket fire today ... as you heard us say in the aftermath of the tragic attack in Erbil, we are outraged by the recent attacks," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. Most attacks cause no casualties but the latest rocket attack, on Monday, was the third in Iraq in just over a week to target Green Zone areas that host U.S. troops, diplomats or contractors.
- Business Insider
Biden's changes to the PPP help businesses with less than 20 workers (or none at all) and those with student debt or unrelated felonies, among others.
- The New York Times
Even by Washington standards, this has been a particularly shameless week. With millions of Texans freezing in their homes, Sen. Ted Cruz fled to a Mexican beach, offering his constituents little more than the political cliché of wanting to be a “good dad.” (Apparently, flying your daughters to Cancún is just like carpooling — if your minivan were the Ritz-Carlton resort.) Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas blamed the complete meltdown of state infrastructure not on a lack of preparation from leaders in the state but the Green New Deal — a liberal policy proposal that is not even close to becoming law. His predecessor, former Gov. Rick Perry, suggested that Texans would willingly endure days of blackouts to keep the “federal government out of their business.” It seems hard to believe that any Texan — or really any human — would choose to have to melt snow for water. The outrageous behavior extended beyond the Lone Star State. In New York, a state lawmaker said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vowed to “destroy” him for criticizing Cuomo’s handling of the deaths of nursing home residents in the past year — an issue that is under investigation by the Justice Department. And Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, said the armed attack on the Capitol did not seem all that well armed. Apparently, he missed the many, many videos of attackers carrying guns, bats and other weapons. And yet, beneath all this noise was the sound of something even more unusual: silence. For much of the past six years, former President Donald Trump has dominated the political conversation, prompting days of outrage, finger-pointing and general news cycle havoc with nearly every tweet. The audacious behavior of other politicians was often lost amid Trump’s obsessive desire to dominate the coverage. Well, the former president has now gone nearly silent, leaving a Trump-size void in our national conversation that President Joe Biden has little desire to fill. That has been a rude awakening for some other politicians, who find themselves suddenly enmeshed in controversy that is not quickly subsumed in a deluge of Trump news. It is unclear whether any will pay a significant political price for their actions. The last administration delivered a constant stream of chaos that may have fundamentally reshaped the kind of fact-based rhetoric and norm-abiding behavior we expect from our political leaders. Already, some politicians have adopted Trump’s playbook for surviving controversy: Blame liberals, double down and never admit any mistake. Biden, at least, seems determined to set a different tone. T.J. Ducklo, a deputy press secretary who reportedly used abusive and sexist language with a female reporter, resigned last Saturday — reflecting Biden’s Inauguration Day promise that he would fire anyone he heard being disrespectful. And in his first presidential town hall Tuesday, Biden repeatedly used two words that many in Washington have not heard in a while: “I’m sorry.” Democrats in Disarray. Kind Of? After a few weeks of party unity, Democrats are showing some fresh signs of division. Over the past week, Biden indicated that he was not fully sold on two proposals backed by his progressive base: forgiving $50,000 of student debt for each borrower and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Both plans have some high-profile champions. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called on Biden to use his executive authority to cancel about 80% of the student loan debt run up by about 36 million borrowers. And the party is fairly united over a $15 minimum wage, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont committed to including it in the COVID-19 relief package currently making its way through Congress. The issue for Democrats is how quickly to move. Biden favors a more gradual phase-in of the $15 minimum wage, in part to assuage concerns from business owners. And on student debt, Biden is not convinced that he can erase so much with a stroke of his executive pen. He has also signaled that the proposals should include income caps. “My daughter went to Tulane University and then got a master’s at Penn; she graduated $103,000 in debt,” he said at a CNN town hall Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I do think you should be able to work it off.” Biden may simply be looking at some political realities. Polls indicate that both proposals are popular, though support for a $15 wage drops when voters are told of potential economic effects — like a Congressional Budget Office forecast that it could cost more than 1 million jobs. As for student debt, majorities back the $50,000 in relief, but support rises when the plan is targeted at lower-income families. By the Number: 16 That was the number of crossover districts — congressional districts where the two parties split results between the presidency and Congress — in 2020, according to a new analysis by Daily Kos. That is the lowest number in a century. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company