“We have to do more to protect our children.” So said President Donald Trump yesterday after meeting with survivors of the recent Florida school shooting. He’s now requested strengthening background checks and a ban on “bump stock” devices — measures the NRA also supports. Trump is reportedly also considering raising the age for gun ownership to 21. Meanwhile, Florida legislators voted not to discuss a bill that would have banned assault rifles statewide, leading students who lived through last week’s shooting to organize a protest at the Statehouse in Tallahassee today.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s an all-out war. As Syrian forces attempt to cement their dominion over the areas around the capital, the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave has suffered a nonstop hail of mortars and missiles, with the death toll reaching 250 in just 48 hours. Monitors say at least 50 children are among the dead and 1,200 people have been injured. It’s the worst violence in the area in five years, and comes after months of food shortages have weakened the population. The U.N.’s now calling for a ceasefire to evacuate the wounded.
He made at least one false move. Alex van der Zwaan, son-in-law of a Russia-based mogul, admitted he lied to investigators about meeting with former Trump aide Rick Gates, who’s been charged in the Mueller probe along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Van der Zwaan says he also deleted email records about his work with Gates and Manafort in Ukraine. That could put pressure on Manafort and Gates, who both pleaded not guilty but faced fresh charges on Wednesday — though it’s not clear if there’s any connection to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Is it change the world can believe in? Economists are skeptical that the petro, Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency that began presale yesterday, can help the country out of its economic hole, which has seen hyperinflation cause shortages of food and medical supplies. Venezuela hopes the sale of the petro will not only raise billions of dollars, but lure cryptocurrency enthusiasts and allow investors to dodge international sanctions. Russia’s considered similar measures, but experts say Venezuela’s credibility problem may be insurmountable. An initial coin offering of the petro is expected next month.
His soul’s at rest. Celebrated pastor Billy Graham, who left an indelible mark on evangelical Christianity in the United States, died at home in North Carolina on Wednesday. He was 99 years old. Known as “America’s pastor,” Graham preached widely and to massive crowds throughout several decades, even frequenting the White House as a spiritual counselor to presidents. The Southern Baptist’s charismatic style attracted millions of followers, while his attempts to cooperate with mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics, as well as to steer clear of politics, cemented him as a moral authority.
There’s no time like the present. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of the backers behind the Long Now Foundation, which has raised $42 million for the clock currently being installed inside a remote Texas mountain. Bezos called the 500-foot thermal-powered timepiece a “symbol for long-term thinking.” Its hands will move for years and centuries rather than seconds and minutes, and each millennium a cuckoo will emerge. The project, conceived by computer theorist and inventor Danny Hillis, will be open to the public once it has been completed.
They’re planting the seeds. Rolling fields aren’t the only settings for farms anymore — just ask the companies growing a wide array of herbs and vegetables in the Big Apple, where indoor agriculture is taking root. Hydroponic farming requires far less water and physical room, allowing urban farmers to maximize their space and provide food for the fine dining scene as well as low-income communities. And since the market’s nowhere near saturated yet, New Yorkers can expect more such farms to spring up in the near future.
So that’s what lies beneath. Researchers are calling the 215-mile-long Sac Actun cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, discovered last month, the world’s “most important submerged archaeological site.” It contains 15,000-year-old ice age animals including giant sloths and proto-elephants, 9,000-year-old human remains, wall etchings, ceramics and an elaborate Mayan shrine. Archaeologists think early humans and animals relied on the cave for fresh water during droughts. But they warn the area, near a popular resort, is now threatened by pollution and human development.
Only 6 percent were spared. Nearly all of the 843 women working in the entertainment industry who were surveyed by USA Today said they experienced some form of sexual misconduct or assault. Twenty-one percent were forced to do something sexual, 69 percent were touched inappropriately and 29 percent witnessed someone exposing themselves. Only 1 in 4 reported their experiences for fear of professional backlash, and most who did said that it didn’t help. However, early-career women were more likely to report incidents — which suggests times could be changing.
Take-backs allowed. The Cardinals have become the first Division 1 men’s basketball team to vacate a national title in the Final Four era. Yesterday an NCAA appeals committee upheld a ruling stripping the team of 123 wins during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons — the result of an investigation into allegations that a staffer paid women to have sex with players and recruits on campus. As part of its punishment, Louisville must also repay NCAA tournament revenues for those seasons. The school called the penalties “draconian.”