Archives April 2022

Gunman opens fire on New York City subway, shooting 10, injuring 6 others

There are no life-threatening injuries among the 10 people shot in Tuesday morning’s Brooklyn subway attack, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. At least six more people were injured.

There was no known link to terrorism, the commissioner said, adding that there were no known explosive devices. Five people were in critical condition, but stable, according to the New York Fire Department commissioner.

The gunman sought in the attack “is still on the loose” and dangerous, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a press conference shortly after noon.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

NEW YORK (AP) — A gunman filled a rush-hour subway train with smoke and shot multiple people Tuesday, leaving wounded commuters bleeding on a Brooklyn platform as others ran screaming, authorities said. Police were still searching for the shooter.

Officials said the gunfire wounded at least eight people, and at least 16 in all were injured in some way in the attack at the 36th Street station in the borough’s Sunset Park neighborhood.

A train rider’s video shows smoke and people pouring out of a subway car. Wails erupt as passengers run for an exit as a few others limp off the train. One falls to the platform, and a person hollers, “Someone call 911!” In other video and photos from the scene, people tend to bloodied passengers lying on the platform, some amid what appear to be small puddles of blood, and another person is on the floor of a subway car.

“My subway door opened into calamity. It was smoke and blood and people screaming,” eyewitness Sam Carcamo told radio station 1010 WINS, saying he saw a gigantic billow of smoke pouring out of the N train once the door opened.

According to multiple law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation, preliminary information indicated that the gunman who fled was wearing a construction vest and a gas mask.

Investigators believe the gunman deployed a smoke device before opening fire, one of the law enforcement officials said. Investigators are examining whether he may have used that device in an effort to distract people before shooting, the official said.

Fire and police officials were investigating reports that there had been an explosion, but the police department tweeted that there were “no active explosive devices at this time.” Multiple smoke devices were found on the scene, said mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy, who confirmed the initial shooting injury count.

Source: WBAL

NY Lt Gov Benjamin arrested in campaign donation scheme

New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, whose seven months in that role has been overshadowed by probes into a previous campaign, was arrested Tuesday in a federal corruption investigation.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Benjamin was arrested on charges of bribery, honest services wire fraud and falsification of records.

Benjamin, formerly a state senator from Harlem, had joined the administration of Gov. Kathy Hochul in September, chosen by her to fill her former job a couple of weeks after she stepped into the governorship following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations.

But just over two months later, a real estate developer who steered campaign contributions toward Benjamin’s failed bid for New York City comptroller was indicted.

Federal authorities accused Gerald Migdol of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in illegally giving donations to Benjamin’s campaign.

Prosecutors had previously not made any accusations against Benjamin, and his campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that it had forfeited any improper donations as soon as they were discovered.

More recently, reports came out saying subpoenas had been issued to Benjamin regarding the financial issues even before Hochul picked him as lieutenant governor.

Despite her saying she didn’t know of the subpoenas at the time, Hochul proclaimed her support for Benjamin, and he said he had told state police as they went though the process of vetting him.

“I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said during a Thursday press conference. “This is an independent investigation related to other people and he’s fully cooperating. He is my running mate.”

Benjamin was the state’s second Black lieutenant governor. During his state Legislature career, the Democrat emphasized criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of central Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.

He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and a master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School, and worked as a developer of affordable housing.

Source: WBAL

Marilyn Mosby announces reelection run for Baltimore state’s attorney

Despite her upcoming trial, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has announced she is seeking re-election for her job.

In the three-minute-long announcement video, Mosby said she is proud of the work she does, bringing “real reform and meaning progress for Baltimore.”

Mosby would be the third Democratic nominee seeking the position of Baltimore’s state’s attorney and will face candidates Ivan Bates, Roya Hanna and Thiru Vignarajah in the primary. 

“Looking forward, there is still so much more work to be done, but I am more confident than ever that Baltimore is on the verge of scripting our greatest chapter ever, and I’m running for re-election as state’s attorney because I love Baltimore and I love our people,” Mosby said in the announcement.” We take whatever is thrown our way and we keep pushing, we keep fighting, we keep moving forward,”

Mosby still faces charges of perjury related to a COVID-19 financial hardship withdrawal and a false statement on a loan application.

Her new trial date is Sept. 19 and she maintains her innocence.

This report will be updated.

Source: WBAL

Guide: Baltimore Orioles Opening Day

The Baltimore Orioles announced plans to welcome fans back to the ballpark to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the club’s home opener at 3:05 p.m. on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards:

Festivities will begin at 2:25 p.m. with a special pre-game ceremony emceed by Orioles broadcaster Rob Long. The game starts at 3:05 p.m. Opening Day will feature:

30th Anniversary Tribute Video: The Orioles will welcome fans back to their ballpark and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards with a video tribute featuring an original poem by Baltimore-based poet and author Kondwani Fidel.

National Anthem: The Morgan State University Choir, one of the groups to perform the inaugural national anthem at Oriole Park on April 6, 1992, will return to perform its rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner from the sod farm prior to the game. A 30-foot-by-42-foot flag from Fort McHenry will be lowered from the batter’s eye during the performance. The flag is a replica of the one that flew over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote the national anthem.

Color Guard: Colors will be presented by members of the Baltimore Police Department Color Guard and the Baltimore City Fire Department Color Guard.

Flyover: The national anthem performance will conclude with a flyover by the 104 Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard 175th Wing.

Source: WBAL

Philadelphia reinstating indoor mask mandate amid case surge

Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, the city’s top health official announced Monday.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors, said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the health commissioner.

The city is reporting more than 140 cases per day, a fraction of what it saw at the height of the omicron surge, and hospitalizations remain low. But Bettigole said the recent increase in infections indicates the city might be at the beginning of a new wave, and city officials are seeking to stay ahead of it by requiring indoor masking.

Health inspectors will start to enforce the mask mandate at city businesses starting April 18.

Source: WBAL

Biden aims at ‘ghost gun’ violence with new federal rule

President Joe Biden on Monday took fresh aim at ghost guns, the privately made firearms without serial numbers that are increasingly cropping up in violent crimes, as he struggles to break through gridlock in Washington to address gun deaths and mass shootings.

Speaking at the White House, Biden highlighted the Justice Department’s work to finalize new regulations to crack down on ghost guns, and announced the nomination of Steve Dettlebach, who served as a U.S. attorney in Ohio from 2009 to 2016, to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Law enforcement is sounding the alarm,” Biden said of ghost guns, briefly holding one up for cameras to see in the Rose Garden. “Our communities are paying the price.”

He promised the new regulations would save lives.

Still, the announcement on guns highlights the limits of Biden’s influence to push a sweeping congressional overhaul of the nation’s firearm laws in response to both a recent surge in violent crime and continued mass shootings. Congress has deadlocked on legislative proposals to reform gun laws for a decade, and executive actions have faced stiff headwinds in federal courts — even as the Democratic base has grown more vocal in calling on Biden to take more consequential action.

Dettlebach’s confirmation, too, is likely to be an uphill battle. Biden had to withdraw the nomination of his first ATF nominee, gun-control advocate David Chipman, after it stalled for months because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate.

Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to get nominees for the ATF position through the politically fraught process since the director’s position was made confirmable in 2006. Since then, only one nominee, former U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed. Jones made it through the Senate in 2013 but only after a six-month struggle. Jones was acting director when President Barack Obama nominated him in January 2013.

The Biden administration’s plan on guns was first reported by Politico.

For nearly a year, the ghost gun rule has been making its way through the federal regulation process. Gun safety groups and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for the Justice Department to finish the rule for months. It will probably be met with heavy resistance from gun groups and draw litigation in the coming weeks.

Gun Owners of America vowed that it would immediately fight the rule.

“Just as we opposed the Trump Administration’s arbitrary ban on bump stocks, GOA will also sue Biden’s ATF to halt the implementation of this rule,” Aidan Johnston, the group’s director of federal affairs said in a statement. The group believes the rule violates the U.S. Constitution and several federal laws.

But gun safety advocacy groups, like Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushed the federal government for years to take action on ghost guns, applauded Biden’s moves and insisted that both Dettlebach’s appointment and the finalized rule will help combat gun violence.

“Ghost guns look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, and they kill like a gun, but up until now they haven’t been regulated like a gun,” said John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president.

Christian Heyne, the vice president of policy at Brady, another gun control group, said Dettlebach was “an unimpeachable public servant who has spent a career using the levers of government to hold negligent or nefarious actors accountable.”

Justice Department statistics show that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and reported to the government from 2016 to 2020. It is hard to say how many are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments don’t contact the government about the guns because they can’t be traced.

The new rule changes the current definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun. It says those parts must be licensed and include serial numbers. Manufacturers must also run background checks before a sale — as they do with other commercially made firearms. The requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts, kits, or by 3D-printers.

Source: WBAL

Maryland legislature enters last day, most priorities done

Maryland lawmakers entered the last day of their legislative session Monday with most high-profile measures already passed into law, including tax relief, a paid family leave program and an extensive measure aimed at slowing climate change.

Democrats, who control the legislature, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan already have signed a bipartisan budget deal. It features nearly $1.86 billion in tax relief over five years for Maryland retirees, small businesses and low-income families in a year of enormous budget surplus for the state’s $58.5 billion budget.

The deal included a tax credit as an incentive for employers and businesses to hire and retain workers from underserved communities. It also includes sales tax exemptions for child care products such as diapers, car seats, and baby bottles, and health products for dental hygiene, diabetic care and medical devices.

“I think we’ve gotten some remarkable work done,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said after Saturday’s session. “We’ve passed an incredible budget that invests in Maryland, gives money back to taxpayers, invests in seniors and working families.”

They also agreed on a one-month gas tax suspension to provide about $100 million in additional relief from high prices at the pump. Lawmakers decided against extending the suspension, which expires at the end of the week.

Democrats still had their disagreements with the term-limited governor, who is in his last year in office. They needed to get priority bills to him early in order to override them while still in session — a strong incentive for getting the bulk of their priorities already passed. Since this is the last year of the term before elections, bills vetoed by the governor after the legislature adjourns can’t be overridden next year.

Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto on Saturday to create a paid family leave insurance program that has been discussed for years in the state. Maryland workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave to deal with such family issues as having a baby, caring for a sick relative or dealing with a military deployment. Up to 24 weeks could be taken in some cases, such as when someone who took 12 weeks due to an illness has a child later.

They also overrode the governor’s veto of legislation to expand access to abortion in the state. Maryland will end a restriction that only physicians perform abortions, enabling nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants with training to perform them.

Lawmakers passed a broad measure aimed at slowing climate change. Hogan said Friday he would let the bill go into law without his signature. The “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022” speeds up Maryland’s current goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 40% of 2006 levels to 60% by 2031. It also sets a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 in the state.

Lawmakers also approved a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana in July 2023, giving the final decision to voters in November. A measure lawmakers passed to take initial steps toward implementation went into law without Hogan’s signature. Licensing and taxing issues will be taken up next year, if voters approve.

Legislators and the governor also agreed to a new congressional map for the state, after a judge struck down the map approved by lawmakers over Hogan’s veto in December as a “product of extreme gerrymandering.” The General Assembly redrew the state’s eight U.S. House districts to be more compact, and Hogan signed the measure last week.

A measure to ban so-called “ghost guns,” which do not have serial numbers, is going into law without Hogan’s signature. Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto of a bill to require firearms dealers to have certain security measures in place as stores.

The General Assembly also approved juvenile justice reforms. Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that prohibits a law enforcement officer conducting custodial interrogation of a child, unless the child has consulted with an attorney.

Lawmakers are still working on details related to enhancing the state’s cybersecurity defenses.

“We have to finish out cyber on Monday, but I think there’s large agreement so that’s probably one of the biggest issues that’s outstanding,” Ferguson said Saturday.

Source: WBAL

COVID-19 cases rising in Northeast, partly fueled by BA.2, experts say

As COVID-19 cases continue to tick up in the United States, the Northeast appears to be fueling the increase.

Four of the five states with the highest seven-day case rates per 100,000 are in the Northeast. In the 10 states with the highest seven-day rates, seven are Northeastern, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rhode Island currently has the highest seven-day case rate at 172.4 cases per 100,000 people. This is nearly three times higher than the national rate of 59.4 cases per 100,000 people.

As of Friday, the Ocean State has also seen its average daily number of cases increase 53% over a two-week period from 170 per day to 260 per day, CDC data shows.

Other Northeastern states seeing increases include Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Maine and Connecticut.

In particular, New York and New Jersey have seen their average daily cases increase by 64%, the CDC data shows.

Experts said one of the reasons for the rise in cases is the spread of BA.2, a subvariant of the original omicron variant that is more transmissible.

In the Northeast, BA.2 accounts for more than 84% of COVID-19 cases that have undergone genomic sequencing, more than any other region in the country, according to the CDC.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told ABC News that early evidence suggests people who were infected with the original omicron variant during the previous wave may now have some immunity against BA.2.

He suggested states that were able to have better control of cases earlier may currently be more vulnerable to infections.

“States that did a good job controlling infections with mandates, most in the Northeast and West, are more susceptible now with BA.2,” he said.

Mokdad compared Maine and Florida using data from the institute, which projects COVID-19 cases around the country.

“We estimate that 54% of people in Maine have been infected at least once as of April 4,” he said. “So, we estimate that 60% are immune. We estimate that 87% of people in Florida have been infected at least once as of April 4. We estimate that 80% are immune.”

Another reason Northeastern states may be seeing case increases is due to the lifting of mask and vaccine requirements, the experts said.

“Not only is BA.2 extraordinarily transmissible, but now, consistent with CDC guidelines, many people are going to crowded indoor events and outdoor events without wearing a mask and not social distancing,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told ABC News. “In anticipation of summer … people are eager to see family and friends and engage in near-normal activities again.”

However, the experts warned the true number of cases could be even higher as some states shift their COVID-19 testing strategy.

Source: WBAL

Once a retail giant, Kmart nears extinction after closure

The familiar sights and sounds are still there: the scuffed and faded floor tiles, the relentless beige-on-beige color scheme, the toddlers’ clothes and refrigerators and pretty much everything in between. There’s even a canned recording that begins, “Attention, Kmart shoppers” — except it’s to remind folks about COVID-19 precautions, not to alert them to a flash sale over in ladies’ lingerie like days of old. Many of the shelves are bare, though, at the Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, picked over by bargain hunters as the store prepares to close its doors for good April 16.

Once it shutters, the number of Kmarts in the U.S. — once well over 2,000 — will be down to three in the continental U.S. and a handful of stores elsewhere, according to multiple reports, in a retail world now dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Source: AP News

Lakers fire Frank Vogel, look toward future

Frank Vogel has coached his final game for the Los Angeles Lakers. Vogel was fired by the Lakers on Monday, the team announced. The Lakers, winners of the 2020 NBA championship under Vogel, entered the season as Western Conference favorites. They failed to live up to that mantle due to a combination of injuries, age, a poorly-built roster and mismanagement of that roster, and last Tuesday, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention. They closed the season with a 33-49 record. Now Vogel is paying the price for their failure and has been removed from his position as coach less than two years after leading the Lakers to the title.

Source: CBS