On Friday, the Bab Al-Salama border crossing into Syria was almost empty. A single ambulance with flashing lights was waiting to enter. The only Syrians crossing back were those being returned to their families in body bags.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: February 11, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, Donald Trump, just because | Tags: Alaska, children with guns, classified documents, Evan Corcoran, grand jury, gun violence, Mike Pence, Turkey/Syria earthquake, unidentified high altitude object 28 Comments
I have a mixed bag of reads for you today: some stories about the terrible earthquake in Turkey and Syria, including a long read about the situation in Syria; a long read about the case of a six-year-old in Virginia who shot his teacher; a story about the still-unidentified flying object shot down over Alaska, and some new Trump investigation stories.
AP News: Survivors still being found as quake death toll tops 25,000.
ANTAKYA, Turkey (AP) — Rescue crews on Saturday pulled more survivors, including entire families, from toppled buildings despite diminishing hopes as the death toll of the enormous quake that struck a border region of Turkey and Syria five days ago surpassed 25,000.
Dramatic rescues were being broadcast on Turkish television, including the rescue of the Narli family in central Kahramanmaras 133 hours after the 7.8-magnitude temblor struck Monday. First, 12-year-old Nehir Naz Narli was saved, then both of her parents.
That followed the rescue earlier in the day of a family of five from a mound of debris in the hard-hit town of Nurdagi, in Gaziantep province, TV network HaberTurk reported. Rescuers cheered and chanted, “God is Great!” as the last family member, the father, was lifted to safety.
Turkish President Recep Tayypi Erdogan, on a tour of quake-stricken cities, raised the death toll in Turkey to 21,848, which pushed the total number of dead across the region, including government and rebel-held parts of Syria, to 25,401….
Still, the day brought one astonishing rescue after another, numbering more than a dozen.
Melisa Ulku, a woman in her 20s, was extricated from the rubble in Elbistan in the 132th hour since the quake, following the rescue of another person at the same site in the same hour. Ahead of her rescue, police announced that people shouldn’t cheer or clap in order to not interfere with other rescue efforts nearby. She was covered in a thermal blanket on a stretcher. Rescuers were hugging. Some shouted “God is great!”
Just an hour earlier, a 3-year-old girl and her father were pulled from debris in the town of Islahiye, also in Gaziantep province, and soon after a 7-year-old girl was rescued in the province of Hatay.
The rescues brought shimmers of joy amid overwhelming devastation days after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake and a powerful aftershock hours later caused thousands of buildings to collapse, killing more than 25,000, injuring another 80,000 and leaving millions homeless.
This is a long Washington Post article by Louisa Loveluck about the earthquake aftermath in Syria: In earthquake-battered Syria, a desperate wait for help that never came.
JINDERIS, Syria — It took four days and nights after the earthquake for the rubble to fall silent here. The strongest voices belonged to the women, residents said. Parted from their children, or fighting to save them, they screamed until their lungs gave out.
In this forgotten pocket of rebel-held northwest Syria, there were no international rescue workers to save them. No aid shipments brought painkillers to the survivors when stocks ran low. Just six miles away, across the border in Turkey, thousands of tons of relief poured in; support teams from as far away as Taiwan answered the Turkish government’s call for help. But Syria, divided against itself and isolated from much of the world, was left to pick up the pieces alone, as it has again and again over more than a decade of war and dislocation.
In the shattered town of Jinderis, at least 850 bodies had been recovered by Friday morning. Although hundreds are still missing, few believed there were any lives left to save. “We needed help here, we asked for help here,” said the town’s mayor, Mahmoud Hafar. “It never came.”
On a rare visit to this Syrian enclave, controlled by Turkish-backed armed groups, The Washington Post found communities gripped by shock and bewilderment, and very much alone. In Jinderis, fathers stood watch over the remains of their homes and told of waking up to find their wives and children dead. As hulking excavators clawed the rubble, searching for a 13-year old boy, a man asked reporters to help him contact the United Nations for help. “Maybe they don’t know what happened in Jinderis,” he said. “No one could see this and not come here.”
This part of Syria has endured crisis after crisis, home to millions of people who have braved war and displacement, hunger and disease. Even before the earthquake, 4.1 million here required humanitarian assistance.
Heartbreaking. Read the rest at the WaPo. There are also many photographs the story.
USA Today has a story about how the Turkey/Syria earthquake compares to others in recent history:100 years of earthquakes: Turkey, Syria disaster could be among this century’s worst.
More than 25,000 people have been killed and the death toll is expected to rise after two earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6. The quakes have become one of this century’s worst natural disasters.
More than 75,000 people have been injured. International rescue efforts from the U.N. and other organizations continue.
The two earthquakes, near the Syrian border, had magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5. They struck about nine hours apart and were the strongest quakes recorded in Turkey in 80 years.
USA TODAY examined earthquake patterns over the past 100 years and how the unfolding tragedy in Turkey and Syria compares. Here is what we found.
See maps and charts at the USA Today link.
The Virginia Six-Year Old Who Shot His Teacher
This is a very interesting investigative piece about the case of a six-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher. I can’t do it justice with excerpts, but I’ll give you a taste, and hope you’ll go read the rest.
Hannah Natanson and Justin Jouvenal at The Washington Post: How Richneck Elementary failed to stop a 6-year-old from shooting his teacher.
Teachers’ fears about the 6-year-old date backto his kindergarten year, when he tried to strangle his teacher, according to a letter Zwerner’s attorney sent to the school system Jan. 24 announcing her intent to sue. The letter was first reported by the Daily Press.
“The shooter had been removed from the school a year prior after he chokedhis teacher until she couldn’t breathe,” says the letter, obtained by The Post through a public records request. It was not immediately clear how a boy so young could have choked an adult. The Post was not able to learn other details of the incident and authorities have not released information about the boy.
Early this fall, as Richneck teachers sought to settle their new crop of students inside the low-slung red-brick building nestled amid trees, news of the 6-year-old’s troubled history circulated swiftly among the staff, according to text messages between teachers.
Less than a week into September, officials switched the 6-year-old to a half-day schedule due to misbehavior — but administrators were already lagging in efforts to accommodate the student, according to Toscano’s letter and to text messages sent between Zwerner and a friend of hers who teaches at the school.
It was not clear what specific incident triggered the schedule change.Toscano wrote in her letter that the 6-year-old “constantly cursed at the staff and teachers and then one day took off his belt on the playground and chased kids trying to whip them.”
What was going on in this child’s home life? It certainly seems as if abuse could be a clue to his behavior. And how was he able to get his hands on his mother’s gun, which she claimed was locked in her bedroom closet?
Text messages and a photo shared between teachers show that a student in Zwerner’s class reportedly hit a teacher so hard with a chair that her legs became dotted with green and purple bruises — and that, at another point, a kindergartner was accused of pushing a pregnant teacher to the ground and kicking her in the stomach so hard that she feared for her unborn child, two weeks shy of giving birth. It was not immediately clear how administrators responded to those episodes, although one educator wrote in a text this fall that the bruised teacher had “heard nothing from admin.”
On Nov. 9, the second-grade teacher wrote in a text message to a colleague that she was applying to work in another district because of “how bad the first graders are right now put together with the fact we don’t have doors.”
Yes, you read that right. The classrooms didn’t have doors because the administration said it would cost too much to put them in.
Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s lawyer, has said teachers relayed several warnings to administrators on the morning of the shooting, including at least three reports that the boy had a gun. The Post interviewed a kindergartner who said the boy threatened to punch her at lunch that day and that she informed a staffer — but that the staffer did little more than give the boy a verbal warning.
In the direct aftermath of the shooting, two second-grade classes were left briefly wandering the hallways in search of a safe place to hide because their classroom was not equipped with doors and they had not rehearsed safety drills, according to one second-grade teacher, one fifth-grade teacher and a parent of a second-grade student, as well as text messages obtained by The Post. A second-grade teacher told The Post she had asked to have doors installed but administrators refused, saying the doors would be too expensive.
As someone who attended elementary school in the 1950s, I can’t begin to comprehend what is happening these days. Not only do we have teenagers and adults committing school shootings; there are also 6-10 year-old kid bringing guns to school and even killing other kids. I hope you’ll read this story; it’s both frightening and fascinating.
High-Altitude Flying Object Over Alaska
The New York Times: U.S. Shoots Down High-Altitude Object Over Alaska.
The Pentagon said it shot down an unidentified object over frozen waters around Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden, less than a week after a U.S. fighter jet brought down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic in an episode that increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.
U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm whether the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.
At a news conference on Friday, John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden ordered the unidentified object near Alaska downed “out of an abundance of caution.” [….]
Pentagon officials said they were able to immediately bring down the object over water, so they could easily avoid the dilemma posed by the spy balloon drifting over populated areas, which had prompted commanders to recommend to Mr. Biden to wait to shoot down the machine in order to avoid any chance of debris hitting people on the ground.
Three U.S. officials said that as of Friday evening, the government did not know who owned or sent the object seen above Alaska, which, like the Chinese balloon last week, was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet using a Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
Several officials said they believed the object shot down Friday was a balloon, but a Defense Department official said it broke into pieces when it hit the frozen sea, which added to the mystery of whether it was indeed a balloon, a drone or something else.
Mr. Kirby said that the object was “much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday” and that “the way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car, as opposed to the payload that was like two or three buses.”
So we still don’t know what this object was. Maybe we’ll find out today.
CNN: Trump team turns over additional classified records and laptop to federal prosecutors.
Former President Donald Trump’s legal team turned over more materials with classified markings and a laptop belonging to an aide to federal prosecutors in recent months, multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CNN.
The Trump attorneys also handed over an empty folder marked “Classified Evening Briefing,” sources said.
The previously undisclosed handovers – from December and January – suggest the protracted effort by the Justice Department to repossess records from Trump’s presidency may not be done.
The Trump attorneys discovered pages with classified markingsin December, while searching through boxes at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence. The lawyers subsequently handed the materials over to the Justice Department.
A Trump aide had previously copied those same pages onto a thumb drive and laptop, not realizing they were classified, sources said. The laptop, which belonged to an aide, who works for Save America PAC, and the thumb drive were also given to investigators in January.
Excuse me, how do we know that Trump didn’t order the aide to copy the documents? And how do we know there aren’t other electronic copies out there? I just can’t believe that Trump never shared any of those stolen documents.
NPR: FBI finds an additional classified document during ‘consensual’ search of Pence’s home.
The FBI confirmed it found an additional classified document during a search Friday at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.
The search for classified documents as well as materials that aren’t classified but are subject to the Presidential Records Act lasted about five hours. Agents removed one document with classified markings plus six additional pages without classification markings.
The consensual search follows a discovery, relayed by Pence’s representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration last month, that documents bearing classified markings had been, they said, “inadvertently” boxed up and found in the former vice president’s home in Indiana.
This is big news from The New York Times: Trump Lawyer in Mar-a-Lago Search Appeared Before Grand Jury.
A lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump appeared before a federal grand jury investigating his handling of sensitive government documents that he took to his Mar-a-Lago club and residence after he left office, two people briefed on the matter said on Friday.
The lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, a member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who handled his responses to the government over its repeated requests for the return of such records, could offer firsthand knowledge of the search the F.B.I. undertook in August and any insights into whether Mr. Trump knew that documents remained at the club.
Mr. Corcoran did not respond to a request for comment. And it was not immediately clear when and under what circumstances he appeared. His appearance was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Corcoran has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials assuring them that Mr. Trump had returned all classified materials in his possession.
As part of Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Corcoran was in discussions with the Justice Department in January 2022, after the National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of presidential material from Mar-a-Lago containing nearly 200 individual classified documents.
In May 2022, Mr. Corcoran was in touch with the department after a grand jury subpoena was issued for any remaining classified material that Mr. Trump retained. He was also on hand the next month when the top Justice Department counterintelligence official visited Mar-a-Lago and collected more than 30 additional classified documents.
At the time, another lawyer working for Mr. Trump, Christina Bobb, signed a statement attesting that a “diligent search” for all remaining classified documents had been conducted and that what was turned over was all that remained. The attestation was drafted by Mr. Corcoran, but Ms. Bobb added language to it to make it less ironclad before signing it, according to people familiar with what took place.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman explained to MSNBC’s Joy Reid the significance of former Vice President Mike Pence’s cooperation with the Justice Department, as it subpoenas him for information in the January 6 investigation.
Above all, Akerman said, we are approaching the unprecedented possibility that a former vice president may have to testify at the criminal trial of his former president.
“If you had [Pence], you know, as you said, for hours and hours, and hours, what would you want to ask him?” asked Reid. “Myself personally, I would also want to know what the Secret Service agents were saying, did you trust them? Because this could be about Donald Trump, but it could also be about some of them. What would you want to know?”
“Yeah, I think we want to know exactly what his suspicion was based on,” said Akerman. “I mean, why did he think they were trying to whisk him out of the Capitol so quickly? Was it one of the people that was close to Donald Trump that was in charge of doing that? Did somebody say something to him? I mean, I’m sure he knew that part of this whole plot was to stop that vote, stop the Congress from considering the electoral count. And that one way to do it was to get him off premises, get him out of the Capitol. So I think, you know, he probably did have other conversations with people.”
“I mean, don’t forget, once Mike Pence told him there’s no way no how I’m gonna do this, Donald Trump knew that the only way he was going to stop this whole count was through the violence, through the disruption in the chaos that ensued at the Capitol and that one of the ways to do it of course was to get Mike Pence out of the Capitol as a result of all this violence and used the Secret Service as a foil and an excuse to do that,” continued Akerman.
I hope you find something here that interests you. What other stories have you been following?