As of Friday, nearly one million Pennsylvanians have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About a quarter of those received the second dose. But many more are needed; KDKA's Paul Martino reports.
- 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.
Britain must show it is fully using the avenues available under the Brexit divorce deal to minimise trade disruption in Northern Ireland before seeking concessions, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. Britain's exit from the EU's trading orbit in January has created trade barriers between Northern Ireland - which remains in the EU's single market for goods - and the rest of the United Kingdom. Maros Sefcovic, a vice president of the European Commission, said he hoped to learn of British efforts during an online meeting on Wednesday .
- Associated Press
The Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, his second run at the Cabinet post. The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same Department of Agriculture for former President Barack Obama's entire administration. “We’re going to be a USDA that represents and serves all Americans,” Vilsack said after the vote.
- Associated Press
Health secretary nominee Xavier Becerra told senators Tuesday that confronting the coronavirus pandemic will be his first priority if confirmed, but he also pledged to expand health insurance, rein in prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care. “To meet this moment, we need strong federal leadership," Becerra said at the first of two hearings on his nomination. Becerra now serves as California's attorney general and previously represented the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years in the U.S. House.
"I was in a state of just being numb. And as the days have passed, the numbness has left, and I'm really - it's very painful," Cooper-Jones said.
- Business Insider
A baby with COVID-19 had 51,000 times more viral particles than other young patients, and experts aren't sure why
A newborn in Washington, DC with severe COVID-19 was found to have a new variant of the virus and massive viral load. Researchers are puzzled.
- Reuters Videos
EasyJet flight bookings jumped over 300% and holidays surged by more than 600% week on week.That was after Britain laid out plans for international travel to resume, hinting that its borders could reopen from mid-May.The UK-based airline said Tuesday (February 23) that trips to beach destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece were the most popular destinations for those keen to travel in August.July and September were the next most popular months.The surge in bookings came despite ongoing uncertainty over exactly how and when international routes can reopen.Holidaymakers will know more on April 12th, when the government publishes a travel review.Britain's vaccine plan is progressing rapidly with around a quarter of the population having had a first dose.That gives hope to a travel industry desperate to start earning again.Foreign governments also need to agree that British holidaymakers can visit without the need for quarantine.France and Spain are among countries that have currently shut their borders to Britons.
- The Daily Beast
Jim Watson./GettyLouis DeJoy had a defiant message on Wednesday for those craving to see him ousted as U.S. Postmaster General: “Get used to me.”The comment came after Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) asked the embattled U.S. Postal Service chief how long he would remain as Postmaster General—“long time,” DeJoy spat back—during a Wednesday hearing in the House Oversight Committee.That exchange was indicative of the entire proceeding, which was frequently chippy, combative, and fueled by Democratic lawmakers’ outrage over DeJoy’s handling of the USPS at a time of worsening mail delays and difficult questions about the service’s long-term viability.DeJoy’s crack to Cooper made Democrats’ blood boil even more. But he may have a point, at least for now: because the postmaster general is installed by the service’s board of governors—and not by the president—it means that President Joe Biden, or Congress, cannot fire DeJoy even if they wanted to.His removal would only be possible when Biden fills Democratic vacancies on the USPS Board of Governors, which has the authority to hire and fire postmasters general. Confirming those spots in the Senate will take time, though the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Biden has identified three nominees to move forward.In the meantime, though, Democratic lawmakers are working with DeJoy on urgent legislation to reform the agency’s finances and employee pension burden, even while many publicly call for his resignation.To many Democrats, DeJoy’s performance on Wednesday on Capitol Hill may make that balancing act harder: they found much to dislike not only in what the postmaster general said, but how he said it.“I gotta say—I just don’t think the postmaster gets it,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), a member of the Oversight Committee who questioned DeJoy on Wednesday about the agency’s delivery standards. “I think it’s time for him to go.”“I thought he approached a lot of our questions with that exact same attitude, which was one of sneering condescension,” Krishnamoorthi told The Daily Beast after the hearing, invoking DeJoy’s response to Cooper. “That’s not gonna fly, man. Not gonna fly.”Wednesday’s hearing was the second time in DeJoy’s short tenure that he has been subjected to a high-profile grilling in the House Oversight Committee. Shortly after taking the USPS’ top job in June 2020, delays and irregularities quickly began to mount—a particularly alarming development for lawmakers on the eve of an election in which more voters than ever planned to vote by mail.Biden to Nominate 3 New USPS Board Members, Opening Path to Oust DeJoyIn a contentious August 2020 hearing, Democrats interrogated the former logistics executive and GOP mega-donor on everything from cuts in overtime hours to the price of a stamp. Questioning from Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) produced a memorable DeJoy response: “I will submit that I know very little about postage and stamps.”By the time House Democrats called DeJoy back to Capitol Hill this week, their worst fears about the USPS delays’ impact on the voting system had failed to materialize. But they still had plenty of questions about DeJoy’s stewardship of the USPS: in October, the USPS inspector general issued a report finding that the changes DeJoy made to delivery schedules and protocol led to the worsening delays. Already battered by the pandemic, the USPS limped into a busy holiday season, and is now providing the poorest service that many longtime observers of the agency have ever seen.Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), a member of the Oversight panel, was a 29-year veteran of the USPS before she came to Congress. She told The Daily Beast after the hearing that she has never seen the service in such dire straits as it is now: “I don’t think we’ve ever confronted this,” she said.The unprecedented delays are happening around the country. In Washington, D.C., just 40 percent of all first-class mail arrived on time by the end of December 2020—compared to nearly 90 percent the same time the year before. Chicago residents are receiving holiday packages a month-and-a-half late. Lawmakers are inundated with calls and emails from frustrated constituents looking for answers; this week, 33 senators signed a letter to DeJoy asking him to explain the recent delays.DeJoy apologized for those delays at the top of Wednesday’s hearing. “We must acknowledge that during this peak season we fell far short of meeting our service goals,” he said. “I apologize to those customers who felt the impact of our delays"But Lawrence expressed concern about DeJoy’s forthcoming “strategic plan” to get the USPS through this difficult stretch. Though the postmaster general has not revealed specifics, he testified on Wednesday that he will propose cuts to delivery standards, including the standard that local mail be delivered within two days. Democrats believe that would be a disastrous move at a time when the USPS is struggling to compete with private-sector competitors, particularly if it is coupled with consumer cost increases, which DeJoy has suggested.“To say that’s what’s bold and needed… that’s not leadership,” said Lawrence. “He has to prove himself. He heard us loud and clear, that he needs to prove himself.”The Michigan Democrat stopped short of saying that DeJoy deserved removal, and told The Daily Beast that she and other Democrats are working with the USPS on postal reform legislation. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) was supportive of working with DeJoy to pass reforms.In the wake of the new political reality in Washington, the postmaster general has begun to attempt outreach to Democratic lawmakers. Lawrence said that during the last administration, DeJoy did not take her calls or respond to her—but after the 2020 election, they had a “cordial” call.Other Democrats see any charm offensive as too little, too late. Krishnamoorthi said he is supportive of working with whatever USPS leadership is in office in order to pass reforms, but argued that DeJoy should go as soon as is possible.Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member of the Oversight Committee, issued a statement after DeJoy’s hearing hailing Biden’s nomination of three appointees to the USPS Board of Governors—and explicitly stated his hope they would remove DeJoy. “These nominations are an important first step toward reforming the Postal Service,” said Connolly. “My hope is the newly constituted Board will do the right thing and bring in a new, qualified Postmaster General.”A majority of the nine-member board would be required to support DeJoy’s removal. Currently, there are four Republican appointees, and two Democratic appointees. If all Biden’s choices are confirmed, Democrats would hold a majority on the board.The Republicans on the Oversight Committee had questions for DeJoy about mail delays, but largely cast him as a victim in an anti-Trump Democratic crusade. Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the top Republican on the panel, compared the party’s concerns about USPS delays—and Trump’s potential role in those delays—to the Trump impeachment investigation he said was predicated on “baseless conspiracies.”Far-right Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), meanwhile, suggested that the root cause of USPS delays was actually the Black Lives Matter protests that took place over the summer, and read articles from fringe outlets like the Gateway Pundit to prove his point. And Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) raised the unfounded belief in widespread conspiracies about election fraud while saying it was not time to get into “specifics.”At one point, tempers flared when Connolly said that Republicans who voted to object to the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6 had “no right to lecture” anyone on the dangers of partisanship.Democrats left more concerned about the fate of the USPS, however, than the state of things in Congress. “It’s not some theoretical concept,” said Krishnamoorthi. “It’s not some abstract issue, it’s real for every single one of us… I’ve gotta tell you, people are starting to work around the mail, which is a scary concept.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Daily Beast
Facebook/Lancaster County District AttorneyA Pennsylvania teenager is facing charges after allegedly fatally stabbing her wheelchair bound older sister—then hysterically calling 911 to confess to the crime.Claire Elaina Miller, 14, has been charged with homicide after calling authorities on Feb. 22 to admit she stabbed her older sister, 19-year-old Helen Miller, while her parents were asleep, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office. The elder Miller, who had cerebral palsy, died from a stab wound to her neck.“I stabbed my sister,” Miller repeatedly told police when they arrived at the house. Since Miller is being charged as an adult, she was denied bail during a Monday arraignment.According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, the Manheim Township Police Department arrived at the home just after 1 a.m. to find Miller, a ninth-grader at a local private school, standing in front of the house close to “what appeared to be blood on the snow near the driveway.”“Miller appeared to be attempting to wash her hands in the snow,” the affidavit states, adding that the teenager also had blood on her pants.Police say Miller directed them into her older sister’s bedroom, where Helen was found with a “pillow with blood stains” over her face. One of the officers removed the pillow and “found a large knife in Helen’s neck, just above her chest.”“Helen was lying on her back with her hands up near her head,” the affidavit states, adding that there was a “large amount of blood” pooled near her chest and bed. Lifesaving measures were “unsuccessful” and she was pronounced dead at 4:13 a.m. On Wednesday, the coroner’s office released an autopsy report confirming Helen Miller died from multiple stab wounds. Authorities also confirmed to The Daily Beast that the 19-year-old had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair.Police say the girls’ parents were asleep during the incident that has sent shockwaves through the small Pennsylvania community about 75 miles west of Philadelphia.`“When I heard about this I was almost instantly upset about it myself over the details that had been related to me,” Manheim Township Police Chief Tom Rudzinski told WHTM. “I don’t know that I have ever been a part of something that is quite as sad as this.”Prosecutors and police, however, have not offered any details about a motive. An attorney for Miller did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.“The investigators are going to be asking those types of questions, conducting those interviews of everybody that was involved, and trying to determine a timeline [for what] would have led to this awful event,” Rudzinski said.Lancaster Country Day School officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that Miller was a ninth-grade student at the school of about 550 students. “As a tight-knit school community, we are of course shocked and saddened by this tragic event and are focused on supporting one another,” a school spokesperson said. A spokesperson for the Manheim Township School District confirmed that Helen Miller received educational services from a school within the district.“We were so saddened to learn of Helen’s tragic and unexpected passing,” the district said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the Miller family. This is a devastating tragedy.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Independent
Angry Democrat Gerry Connolly tells Trump ally he ‘will not be lectured’ by someone who tried to overturn election
Accusing Jim Jordan of ‘gaslighting,’ Gerry Connolly said ‘I didn’t vote to overturn an election and I will not be lectured by people who did about partisanship’
- Business Insider
I flew Southwest for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats. The friendly service didn't make up for inconsistent social-distancing practices.
Southwest was an early adopter of the popular seat-blocking policy but began filling planes to capacity in December.
The White House has 132 rooms and its own restaurant. Here's what it's like inside Joe Biden's new home.
The most famous home in America also comes with a movie theater, bowling alley, and underground bunkers.
- USA TODAY
'His face was in your windshield': Police skeptical South Dakota AG didn't know he fatally struck a pedestrian
In more than three hours of interviews, South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg answers investigators' questions about his role in a fatal crash.
Residents describe road where Tiger Woods crashed as 'a real danger,' especially for drivers unfamiliar with the area
Reports suggest that officials are not investigating Tiger Woods for driving under the influence leading up to his devastating car crash on Tuesday.
Eddie Murphy says Ryan Coogler tried to make a 'Coming to America' sequel starring Michael B. Jordan - but he didn't like the idea
Eddie Murphy said that Ryan Coogler's idea had Michael B. Jordan playing his son, "looking for a wife."
- Business Insider
Pence reportedly speaks 'very favorably' of Trump in GOP meeting and intends to launch a new political organization
"I got the sense they speak often and maintain the same personal friendship and relationship now that they have for four years," said Rep. Jim Banks.
Seriously, who is Peacock's new 'Punky Brewster' even for?
- Business Insider
A preliminary study from Israel suggests people vaccinated against COVID-19 have lower viral loads, which are linked to less spread of the virus.
- Business Insider
Donald Trump has fought hard to keep his personal tax returns, and the Trump Organization's a secret. The Supreme Court just let prosecutors get them.