- A gunman opened fire on multiple NYPD officers in targeted attacks last weekend, injuring two. The suspect was taken into custody.
- Commissioner Dermot Shea and Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attacks an “assassination attempt,” and linked them to recent protests against police.
- President Trump blamed the violence on the “weak leadership” of de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
- The head of an association of active and retired NYPD sergeants also blamed the mayor, saying that NYPD members are “declaring war” on de Blasio.
- Social justice advocates were upset at de Blasio for their own reasons, arguing that he shouldn’t blame them for the violence that happened.
Two New York Police Department officers were shot in separate “assassination” attempts over the weekend by the same gunman, who told officials that he committed the crime because he hates cops.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea discussed the targeted attack at a news conference on Sunday.
“This is not a crime gone bad. This is not a liquor store robbery interrupted, that a tragedy erupts from. This is a premeditated assassination attempt,” Shea said.
Shea linked the violence to criticism of police, particularly recent protests against increased police presence on the subway.
“These things are not unrelated. We’ve had people marching through the streets of New York City recently,” he said on Sunday.
“Words matter and words affect people’s behavior,” Shea added.
On Saturday night, a gunman walked up to two on-duty officers in a police van and opened fire. One of the officials, Paul Stroffolino, was shot in the neck and chin area. The officers drove off without returning fire. Stroffolino received medical attention and was released from the hospital on Sunday.
Just a few hours after the first attack, a gunman opened fire on officers in the NYPD’s 41st Precinct station house. One officer, Lt. Jose Gautreaux, was shot in the arm.
The gunman surrendered once he ran out of bullets, according to Commissioner Shea, and was taken into custody. Shea said that the suspect had served time in prison until 2017 after being convicted of attempted murder in 2002. On Monday, he was formally charged again, this time with 14 counts of attempted murder.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio reported that Lt. Gautreaux was in stable condition after being wounded.
De Blasio called the shootings “an attack on all New Yorkers” and emphasized the need for peace and respect. He also tied the violence to the public backlash against law enforcement, saying that people who express hatred toward police are “aiding and abetting this kind of atmosphere.”
“I want New Yorkers to be clear, this was an attempt to assassinate police officers,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “There is too much hatred out there, too much hatred in general and too much hatred directed at our officers.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that he was “horrified” by the multiple attacks.
“NY’s law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. These attacks are heinous,” he tweeted. “Those responsible will be brought to justice & held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Pushback Against NY Politicians
President Donald Trump spoke out about the incidents as well, asserting that de Blasio and Cuomo, who are both Democrats, were partly to blame for the committed crimes.
“I grew up in New York City and, over many years, got to watch how GREAT NYC’s “Finest” are,” Trump tweeted. “Now, because of weak leadership at Governor & Mayor… our wonderful NYC police are under assault. Stop this now!”
De Blasio responded to Trump’s tweet, saying this is “no time for division.”
“Our city is hurting right now,” the mayor said. “The only appropriate response is thoughts, prayers and solidarity with our officers.”
Edward Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association whose members consist of active and retired NYPD sergeants, agreed with the president. He went even further by saying NYPD members are “declaring war” on de Blasio, a move that has been condemned by elected officials from both major parties.
“Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you,” the SBA wrote on Twitter. “We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!”
Furthermore, some criminal justice activists resisted de Blasio and Shea’s claims that demonstrations were connected to the attack against the officers.
Robert Gangi, head of the Police Reform Organizing Project, told USA Today that the officials’ accusations were “irresponsible,” particularly because the police haven’t linked the gunman to the protests in any way.
Gangi stood behind the protests in response to a tweet from de Blasio about the first shooting incident.
The transit protests are organized in part by Decolonize This Place, a group that pushes for the removal of police from the transit system, among other things.
“Linking the right to protest and to take direct action with unassociated and random acts of violence is a well-worn and gratuitous tactic long used by authorities to suppress dissident speech,” DTP said in a statement. “The Mayor, at least, should pretend to know better.”
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murderers or suspected murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban
- President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
- Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
- The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions.
Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.
Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”
It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead.
Biden To Block Trump’s Order
Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect.
It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.
Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”