Several victims are said to remain in critical condition following Wednesday’s stabbing rampage at a Pennsylvania high school. A teenage suspect is accused of moving through the school, slashing and stabbing his classmates with kitchen knives. Twenty-one students and a security guard were injured. Murrysville Police Chief Tom Seefeld described arriving at the scene.
Tom Seefeld: “When we got there, there was a hallway that was pretty much in chaos, as you can imagine, a lot of evidence of blood on the floors in the hallway. We had students running about, trying to get out of the area. So, subsequently, upon checking and seeing what we had, immediate calls were put out to EMS [Emergency Medical Service].”
Several victims remain hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Vigils were held for the injured on Wednesday night.
The American commander of NATO forces in Europe says he has not ruled out deploying U.S. soldiers to counter Russian moves in Ukraine. Commenting on NATO deployments in eastern European states, Air Force General Philip Breedlove said he would not “write off involvement by any nation, to include the United States.” Breedlove’s comments come ahead of next week’s talks between the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland played down expectations.
Victoria Nuland: “The Russians agreed that they would finally sit down over the next 10 days with Ukraine and the EU and the U.S. to discuss de-escalation, demobilization, support for the elections and constitutional reform. I have to say that we don’t have high expectations for these talks, but we do believe it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open.”
Israel has scaled back contact with the Palestinian Authority in a growing dispute over the future of peace talks. The PA signed 15 international conventions and treaties last week after the Israeli government reneged on a pledge to free Palestinian prisoners. In response, Israel now says it will suspend cooperation with the PA on most issues except negotiations and policing the West Bank. The move also comes after Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to blame Israel for the breakdown in peace talks, citing its recent decision to build hundreds of new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem. On Wednesday, the Israeli government said it is “deeply disappointed” by Kerry’s remarks.
Executives from the nation’s two largest cable providers are appearing before Congress to face questioning over their controversial merger. Comcast is seeking to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. The takeover would grant Comcast a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comcast Vice President David Cohen said acquiring Time Warner would help cable market competition.
David Cohen: “While this transaction will make us bigger, that’s a good thing, not a problem. Most of our real competitors are national and global and larger than us, like the Bells [former AT&T spinoff telecommunications companies], satellite companies, Apple, Google, Sony and Netflix. In fact, the business reason for this transaction is to create the scale that will enable Comcast to invest more in innovation and infrastructure and enhance our ability to compete more effectively.”
Comcast and Time Warner have extensive government ties. Both companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and donations. The bulk of Time Warner’s lobbyists last year were former government employees. In testimony critical of the merger, Gene Kimmelman of the group Public Knowledge said it would raise prices and reduce choices for consumers.
Gene Kimmelman: “This proposed transaction consolidates too much power in the combined video and high-speed Internet market, giving Comcast a virtual gatekeeper role for fast Internet-delivered video and innovative new services. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, the issue before antitrust officials and communication regulators is really very, very simple: If we want more innovative, low-priced, Internet-delivered services, this merger must be rejected.”
The merger hearings continue today in the House. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission will have final say on whether the merge is approved.
Senate Republicans have blocked a measure aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act would let workers compare salaries without the threat of retaliation and force companies to explain pay disparities. But Democrats failed to clear the 60-vote threshold after failing to win any Republican support. Democrats say they will reintroduce the bill later this year.
New Justice Department rules on racial profiling by the FBI will reportedly keep a number of controversial tactics in place. The New York Times reports Attorney General Eric Holder’s proposed revisions would preserve many, if not all, policies opposed by civil rights groups. These include mapping ethnic communities and using that information to launch probes and recruit informants. The changes would, however, abandon a Bush-era exemption for racial profiling in cases deemed to concern national security. They would also expand the definition of illegal profiling to include religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.
At an event hosted by the National Action Network on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder discussed his own experience with racial profiling. He also slammed what he suggested was racist treatment in an appearance before Congress earlier this week.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “I am pleased to note that the last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms, even in the face — even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity. If you don’t believe that, you look at the way — and forget about me, forget about me — you look at the way the attorney general of the Untied States was treated yesterday by a House committee. Had nothing to do with me. Forget the — what attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
Holder was referring to his heated dispute with Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert. At the hearing, Gohmert threatened a new contempt vote against Holder over the withholding of documents concerning the Holy Land terror trial.
Rep. Louie Gohmert: “Sir, I’ve read you what your department promised, and it is inadequate. And I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.”
Attorney General Eric Holder: “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?”
Rep. Louie Gohmert: “I don’t want to go there?”
Attorney General Eric Holder: “No.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert: “About the contempt?”
Attorney General Eric Holder: “You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust. But never think that that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
A memorial was held at the Fort Hood Army base Wednesday for victims of last week’s shooting rampage. Three people were killed and 16 wounded when an Iraq War veteran opened fire before taking his own life. The veteran, Ivan Lopez, had sought care for mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Addressing the memorial, President Obama honored the victims and pledged to tackle mental health treatment for U.S. servicemembers.
President Obama: “As a father, I cannot begin to fathom your anguish. But I know that you poured your love and your hopes into your sons. I know that the men and soldiers they became, their sense of service and their patriotism, so much of that came from you. As commander-in-chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help.”
It was Obama’s second appearance at a Fort Hood memorial since taking office, following the killing of 13 people by a U.S. soldier in 2009.
In Connecticut, a 16-year-old transgender girl is being held in an adult prison without any criminal charges against her, after the state Department of Children and Families told a judge it could not care for her. The state agency cited a statute that has not been used in 14 years, which they say allows the transfer. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the teenager is being treated like a criminal simply because she is transgender. She was taken to a women’s prison on Tuesday, but could potentially be transferred to a male prison, even though she identities as a woman.
And a new study has found there are 10 times more people with severe mental illness in U.S. prisons than in psychiatric facilities. The Treatment Advocacy Center says more than 356,000 people with serious conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are behind bars. In 44 states, prisons hold more people “with serious mental illness than the largest remaining state psychiatric hospital.” Mentally ill prisoners also face a number of violations and abuses that are causing disproportionate rates of suicide.