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10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened This Week (5/25/18)
Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.
It was yet another grim week for those who aren’t fans of innocent schoolkids getting blown away (i.e., everybody). Yet another school mass shooting threw America into shock once again, this time in Texas. For the rest of the world, the news this week was an intriguing mix of celebration, tragedy, and far-reaching cultural changes.
10 Texas Was Rocked By A Deadly School Shooting
This is getting exhausting. After a half-year or so in which every nutjob with a gun seemed to come crawling out of the woodwork to shoot some innocent Americans, yet another mass shooting erupted last Friday. Seventeen-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire in Santa Fe High School in Texas. Although officers intervened within four minutes, that was still enough time for Pagourtzis to kill 10 and leave 13 injured.
Perhaps inevitably, this latest massacre has been compared to the Parkland school shooting in February, which killed 17. It also comes not long after at least two other newsworthy gun massacres (in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas) plus all manner of smaller and attempted mass shootings which were stopped before the casualty toll could hit double figures.
Thanks to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling banning executions for people under 18, Pagourtzis will not face the death penalty for his actions. We only wish he’d shown his young victims the same compassion.
9 Cuba Suffered A Horrific Air Crash
At midday on Friday, 113 people boarded Cuba Air Flight 972 from Havana. By the time the clock reached 12:08 PM, all but four of them were dead, killed in the second-worst air crash in Cuban history. Of those four, two would later die of their injuries in the hospital.
The crash seems to have been preventable. Over the weekend, news emerged that nearby Guyana had banned the aircraft used from their airspace due to concerns about it being frequently overloaded with baggage. Perhaps sadder still was the way that news of the disaster quickly vanished in the media. Thanks to a freak accident of timing, the US was still reeling from the Santa Fe shooting while European coverage was more focused on the imminent royal wedding.
The Cuba Air crash marks the fourth major civilian airliner disaster of 2018. It follows a 2017 in which no one died in a commercial passenger jet crash in the entire world.
8 We Got Final Proof That Hitler Died In 1945
Hitler-based conspiracy theories have been a cottage industry since Berlin fell in 1945, with books, documentaries, and Internet articles all claiming that the fuhrer escaped death in World War II’s endgame.
Well, rest easy, folks. This week, we got final confirmation that Hitler did indeed die in the Fuhrerbunker. A team of French pathologists released the findings from their yearlong study of Hitler’s supposed remains. They showed with near 100 percent certainty that Adolf is as dead as the dodo.
Russian troops were long said to have found Hitler’s body in 1945, throwing most of it into the river and saving only a fragment of his jaw. Since those remains disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, no one knew if they were the real deal or not.
In 2017, the Kremlin authorized the French group to work on the jawbone fragment. The teeth perfectly matched Hitler’s dental records and showed traces of cyanide poisoning, effectively proving the official version of his death. Less fun than the fuhrer escaping to a secret Nazi Moon base perhaps, but far more comforting.
7 Terry Gilliam’s Legendary Don Quixote Film Finally Arrived
It’s rare for this column to report on something as ordinary as a new movie being screened. But when that movie is Terry Gilliam’s legendary The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, we make an exception. Gilliam’s Don Quixote is a cinematic touchstone. First conceived way back in the 1980s, it’s famous as one of the most cursed productions in film history.
The tales of woe surrounding the shoot are legendary.
There was the time that Gilliam was forced to watch as storms destroyed all his expensive and irreplaceable sets. There was the lead actor who suddenly died halfway through filming. There were the attempts to revive the shoot in the 2000s that ended with producers pulling the plug and money completely running out. Just before this new cut premiered at Cannes, a legal battle threatened to halt its showing and Gilliam himself suffered a minor stroke.
So, after all that, what did the world think of the movie that took over 25 years to make? Err . . . they thought it was okay.
6 The President Was Stopped From Blocking People On Twitter
President Trump likes to tweet. He likes it so much that he frequently delivers big policy announcements on the platform, bypassing both the White House press office and the official POTUS Twitter account.
Washington isn’t blind to this. In 2017, the National Archives began preserving @realDonaldTrump’s tweets as official presidential records. Now comes the latest step. The president has been legally stopped from blocking people on Twitter.
The ruling comes courtesy of Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. At first glance, it appears to just be another of those amusing stories that editors use to fill out column inches. Look closer, though, and it becomes clear that it has huge implications for freedom of speech.
The First Amendment specifically protects people’s right to air their opinions in public forums, typically places like parks or sidewalks. Buchwald’s ruling interprets Twitter as a public forum, provided a government official is using it to discuss government policy. This means that politicians of any stripe will no longer be able to block other users who disagree with them, further backing up Justice Kennedy’s 2017 description of social media as the “modern public square.”
5 The MH17 Investigation Finally Released Its Conclusions
In 2014, Malaysia Air Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard. Speculation at the time suggested that Ukrainian rebels were responsible, although fingers were also pointed at Russia’s armed forces and the Ukrainian military.
Since then, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been methodically combing through all available evidence to find the guilty party behind the one of the worst massacres of the Ukrainian conflict. This Thursday, they dropped their bombshell. The missile was fired by Russia’s 53rd antiaircraft brigade.
The JIT’s findings are important as they will determine ultimately who may stand trial in the Netherlands, where MH17 had departed. If true, they also suggest that Russia can now be proven to have played a much more active role in the conflict than previously thought. For its part, the Kremlin says the conclusions are driven by bias and not backed up by any facts.
4 Every Bishop In Chile Resigned
Chile is at the heart of one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sex abuse scandals. In the 1970s and ‘80s, pedophile priest Father Fernando Karadima abused children on a vast scale, and local bishops may have helped cover up his crimes. Although an internal Vatican investigation found Karadima guilty in 2011, the Chilean church has consistently refused to accept the verdict. Indeed, Karadima still lives as a free man in his home country.
Last Friday, that steadfast refusal may have finally crumbled. After years of pressure, Chile’s bishops finally held a meeting en masse with Pope Francis. While we don’t know what was said, it was evidently powerful stuff. At the end of the meeting, all 34 Chilean bishops simultaneously resigned.
At the time of this writing, Pope Francis has yet to accept any of their resignations. But the gesture shows how much has changed in the Chilean church. Alongside their resignations, the bishops offered a letter expressing their sorrow at the pain suffered by Karadima’s victims and the hurt their actions had caused.
3 Washington State Saw Its First Fatal Cougar Attack In Nearly 100 Years
S.J. Brooks is a name that now carries an unfortunate distinction. On Saturday, the mountain biker became the first person to be killed in a cougar attack in Washington State in 94 years. The attack marked only the fourth cougar fatality in the whole of the USA this century.
The details are unpleasant, gory, and simply terrifying.
Brooks was cycling with Isaac Sederbaum near Seattle when the cougar came for them. Although they followed official advice and tried to scare it off, it still attacked, mauling Brooks and biting a chunk out of Sederbaum’s head. Sederbaum managed to escape and alert authorities. They eventually found the cougar atop Brooks’s body. The animal was caught and euthanized.
The cause of the attack is a mystery. Cougars are naturally shy creatures that only rarely attack humans. (Since 1900, only 25 fatal attacks on humans have been recorded.) It is thought that this cougar was likely sick or starving and driven to desperation.
2 The White House And The FBI Prepared To Go To War
Can anyone remember the last time that Washington, DC, wasn’t in the middle of some high-ranking investigation?
We currently have two probes running on the topic of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election (Mueller’s and the Senate’s) plus a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe. Now it looks like we’re gonna get a whole extra probe, this time examining whether the FBI unlawfully investigated the Trump 2016 campaign.
The news follows an exciting weekend in which it was revealed that the FBI had a mole in the Trump campaign—a mole characterized as an “illegal spy” by Trump supporters and a “simple informant” by his enemies. The revelation led the president to demand an investigation into the entire FBI, a demand which appeared to have been watered down to a simple oversight investigation by the middle of the week.
The spy or informant was identified by several media organizations as Stefan Halper, 73, who was paid over $400,000 by the Department of Defense from 2016 to 2017. In the early 1980s, Halper was accused of using former CIA agents to spy on Jimmy Carter’s 1980 presidential campaign, including acquiring debate prep documents used by Carter and possibly classified foreign policy information from his administration.
That scandal was dubbed Debategate. Halper has consistently denied those allegations.
Interestingly, Halper has extensive ties to the family of former US President George H.W. Bush, who was Ronald Reagan’s vice presidential running mate during the 1980 election as well as a former CIA director. Allegedly, Bush was supervising Halper’s activities during the Carter affair. Bush had also known Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline. Connecting the dots between the past and present reveals some interesting relationships.
Nevertheless, the White House and FBI seem set on a collision course this time. Doubtless, the consequences of any such confrontation will be huge.
1 Britain’s Royal Family Got Its First (Definite) Mixed-Race Princess
Let’s end on a light and frothy note for once, and what could be lighter or more frothy than a wedding featuring the planet’s most famous royal family?
Yep, for all six of you who missed it, Saturday was the day that Britain’s Prince Harry officially tied the knot with US actress Meghan Markle in a ceremony watched by hundreds of millions globally and nearly 30 million in the US. (That’s more than the Oscars but far less than the Super Bowl.) Aside from the pageantry of it all, the ceremony was also notable for introducing the first definite mixed-race princess into the British royal family.
We say “definite” because there’s some evidence that George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, was of Moorish descent, which would mean that Queen Elizabeth II is, too, albeit very distantly. Either way, it was still a significant moment for both race relations in Britain and for superfans of Markle’s old TV show Suits.