Happy Friday! Did we pick our two main stories today solely for the headline wordplay possibilities? Who’s to say.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Russian military launched a large-scale missile attack on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities Thursday, deploying a more sophisticated class of weaponry capable of evading defense systems and killing at least six civilians. Ukrainian officials said their forces intercepted just 34 of the 81 missiles fired—and four of eight Iranian-made exploding drones—resulting in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians losing heat and electricity. The barrage also reportedly knocked out power at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant for several hours, raising the specter of a meltdown.
- Citing “two people familiar,” the Washington Post reported Thursday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has “indicated privately” he will launch a bid for the Republican nomination—likely after Florida’s legislative session wraps up in May. Former Virginia attorney general and Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli launched a Super PAC yesterday to “encourage” DeSantis to enter the race, and it will likely “serve as an approved outside spending vehicle for his campaign,” according to the Washington Post report. DeSantis is scheduled to visit Iowa and Nevada—both early primary states—this weekend as part of his book tour.
- The New York Times reported Thursday Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has invited former President Donald Trump to appear before the grand jury investigating his business practices, including hush money payments to an adult film star. The invitation may signal a looming indictment from a probe launched in 2019.
- The Mexican drug cartel suspected of kidnapping four Americans and killing two of them last week in Matamoros issued an apology Thursday and turned over five of its members to local authorities. “We decided to hand over those directly involved and responsible for the acts,” the letter—which authorities believe is authentic—reads. “[They] acted under their own determination and indiscipline and against the rules in which the [Gulf Cartel] always operates.” The remains of the two Americans killed were transferred to U.S. diplomatic authorities yesterday.
- France’s Senate on Thursday approved a controversial pension reform bill raising the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64, beating a Sunday legislative deadline. The proposal—which has sparked months of strikes and protests across the country—will go to mediation between the Senate and National Assembly next week before its likely final passage later this month.
- Suspected members of the ISIS-affiliated Allied Democratic Force killed at least 40 people late Wednesday and early Thursday in an eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo beset with militia violence. DRC officials said the attack—which occurred just before a planned visit by a United Nations Security Council delegation—was likely retaliation for a military crackdown on rebel groups.
- The Senate voted 54-42 on Thursday—with six Republicans joining most Democrats—to confirm Daniel Werfel as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service after he was nominated by President Joe Biden late last year. Werfel will serve a five-year term atop the agency.
- Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia confirmed Thursday the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight will launch a probe into the now-dissolved House January 6 Select Committee and security failures during the riot at the Capitol. Loudermilk, who chairs the subcommittee, will lead the investigation, which may also touch on the treatment of January 6 defendants.
- A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed Thursday the Kentucky Republican is being treated for a concussion after tripping and falling at a dinner event in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night. McConnell, 81, is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days for observation.
- The Department of Labor reported Thursday initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—rose by 21,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 211,000, the largest such increase since October. Despite the jump, the figure remains near historic lows.
Clashing Over “Cop City”
In 2015, Atlanta’s police department asked the Atlanta Police Foundation—a nonprofit devoted to fundraising for and developing the city’s law enforcement—to sketch out ideas for a new training center. Eight years later, controversy surrounding the project—now dubbed the Atlanta Police Training Center—has led to arson and Molotov cocktails, one dead activist, and dozens more detained and charged with domestic terrorism.
Despite entrenched opposition from a coalition of conservationists, anti-police activists, and others, city officials are forging ahead with a plan they say will give the city’s first responders much-needed training facility updates. Planned for 85 acres of a 380-acre tract the city of Atlanta owns in DeKalb County, the center would replace the rented—and in some cases rundown—buildings first responders have been using to train. The design calls for a firing range, driving track, kennel, and stable, as well as classrooms and other mock city locations. “We need to make sure officers are prepared for real-life scenarios, like if you have a shooting in a nightclub or a gas station,” a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said. The presence of those buildings—as well as 30 acres set aside for green space and walking trails—has prompted opponents to dub the planned facility “Cop City.” The Atlanta Police Foundation has agreed to raise $60 million of the expected $90 million price tag, with the city picking up the rest of the bill.
After 17 hours of largely negative public comments, the Atlanta City Council greenlit the plan in September 2021—and opposition has only grown since then. Activists argue the project will remove green space that helps cushion Atlanta from rising temperatures and that the training facility will foster police violence. Opponents have held marches and camped in the area in an effort to slow development, but some have also sabotaged equipment and vandalized construction areas. In January, during an attempt to clear a protest site, police shot and killed an environmental activist who had allegedly shot and injured an officer—a claim activists dispute. Days later, about 100 people descended on downtown Atlanta in protest of the killing, and a handful of them—dressed in all black—smashed bank windows, set off fireworks, and lit a police car on fire. Several explosive devices were recovered from the scene, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and activated 1,000 National Guard troops.