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US Capitol: Police officer dies after car rams security barrier; The capital building was closed

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Washington — A U.S. Capitol Police officer was killed Friday after a car rammed a security barricade protecting the complex, locking down the building for two hours and reigniting tensions in a city still struggling to return to normalcy after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

According to Capitol Police, a man drove his car into two officers and then crashed into the barricade. The blue sedan appeared to hit a barrier that can be raised while Capitol Police search a vehicle and verify its occupants’ identities. The driver exited the vehicle with a knife, “lunged” at one of the officers and was shot by police, officials said.

The suspect was taken into custody. He and the two seriously injured officers were transported to hospitals, where one officer and the suspect died, officials said.

“It is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries,” said Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. “This has been an extremely difficult time for the U.S. Capitol Police.”

She later identified the officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police force who was a member of the division’s first responders unit.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called Evans a “martyr for our democracy” and ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

President Biden, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, sent condolences to Evans’ family.

“Jill and I were heartbroken to learn of the violent attack at a security checkpoint on the U.S. Capitol grounds, which killed Officer William Evans of the U.S. Capitol Police and left a fellow officer fighting for his life,” Biden said. “We know what a difficult time this has been for the Capitol, everyone who works there and those who protect it.”

Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings and grounds through Tuesday.

Police said later Friday that the second officer struck by the car, who was not identified, was in stable condition. One law enforcement source said the officer had broken bones.

Evans’ death is the second in the line of duty for the U.S. Capitol Police this year. Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained during the Jan. 6 insurrection; two other officers died by suicide in the weeks after that attack. Prior to this year, a total of four officers had died in the line of duty in the history of the force, according to the Capitol Police.

The incident does not appear to be related to terrorism, according to Robert Contee, acting chief of D.C. Metropolitan Police.

“We need to understand the motivation,” he said.

Pittman said Capitol Police did not have the suspect on file, and there were no early indications that the incident was related to a threat to any specific member of Congress.

A law enforcement official familiar with the case identified the suspect as Noah Green, 25, of Indiana. Investigators were digging into Green’s background in search of a motive.

“We haven’t found any manifestos,” a senior law enforcement official said. “We haven’t found anything like he hates cops or Congress.”

In the last month, Green lost his job and apartment in Indiana, the official said, and police were trying to determine where he had been living.

Green was a 2019 graduate of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., with a degree in finance. He played on the university’s football team in the fall 2017 and fall 2018 seasons.

Two law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times that authorities were reviewing social media posts made by Green, including items related to the Nation of Islam. A Facebook page that appeared to belong to him had been taken down Friday night, according to multiple media reports.

At approximately 1:10 p.m. Friday, Capitol staff were instructed by Capitol Police to remain indoors and away from external windows due to an “external security threat.”

Video shot by reporters on the scene showed at least two dozen National Guardsmen running in a line toward the intersection as people trying to enter the Capitol were directed away. Other uniformed security forces were deployed around the area. Another video showed what appeared to be a National Park Service helicopter landing on the lawn on the East Front of the Capitol.

Tensions have been high in Washington since the Jan. 6 insurrection, when mobs of violent supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol.

“It did bring back memories of Jan. 6,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) told.

The black fencing and enhanced security that enclosed the sprawling Capitol complex in the wake of that attack had started to come down in recent weeks. The security perimeter shrank, although the fencing is still up at the intersection on the north side of the complex where the incident took place.

Security recommendations have called for additional permanent fencing at the Capitol, but lawmakers of both parties have been hesitant to support this, worried about the optics of Congress walling itself off from the public. Friday’s incident is likely to reignite those conversations.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for a review of the Capitol’s security provisions.

“This is the second attack on the Capitol in just three months, and it has become clear the Capitol is increasingly seen as a target,” she said.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who leads one of the subcommittees that oversees the Capitol Police, said the incident would spark closer scrutiny of the fences that have lined the complex for three months and calls to remove them.

“It’s a disturbance. It’s an eyesore. It sucks. Nobody wants that there,” Ryan said of the fence. “But the question is whether the environment is safe enough to be able to take it down and, in the meantime, maybe that fence can prevent some of these things from happening.”

In 2016, Capitol Police shot a man who tried to bring a fake Beretta into the Capitol Visitor Center.

Congress is on recess this week for the spring holidays, so the Capitol complex had far fewer people than normal. The vast majority of lawmakers were expected to be in their districts and not in the Capitol. On a recess day, the building is still populated by staff members, reporters and police officers.

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Covid-19 ‘shakes’ Brazil; Most children and young people die

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Brazil has been one of the worst-hit nations by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic but the unusual high deaths among babies have caused immense concerns. Despite overwhelming evidence based on data that Covid-19 rarely turns fatal for children, around 1,300 babies have died from coronavirus.

BBC did a feature on a Brazilian woman’s one-year-old son who died two months after he first displayed symptoms of Covid-19 in May last year. Jessika Ricarte took her son, Lucas, to a hospital after he developed a fever, then fatigue and slightly laboured breathing. The oxygen level was at a low 86 per cent but the doctor assured Jessika that Covid-19 was rare in children and sent her home with some antibiotics, reported BBC.

Jessika, a resident of Tamboril in Ceará, northeast Brazil, said that although some of the symptoms disappeared at the end of his 10-day antibiotics course, the tiredness remained, as per the report. On June 3, Lucas vomited repeatedly after having lunch, prompting Jessika to take him to a local hospital. He tested positive for Covid-19 and was transferred to a paediatric intensive care unit in Sobral, a municipality that was over two hours away.

Lucas was diagnosed there with a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS). A recent study, published in The Lancet, suggests that multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a newly identified and serious health condition associated with Covid-19. It is a rare but severe hyperinflammatory condition in children and adolescents that typically occurs 2–6 weeks after they are infected with the coronavirus.

MIS-C is an extreme immune response to the virus and can affect multiple organ systems, including cardiac, gastrointestinal, haematological, dermatological, neurological, respiratory, and renal systems. For the study, the researchers analysed 1,080 patients who met the MIS-C case definition and had sufficient clinical data for analysis of pre-existing factors.

Out of 1,080 patients, 431 were admitted to ICU on the same day as hospitalisation and 217 were admitted to ICU at least after a day of hospitalisation. The clinical signs and symptoms of MIS-C include cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and abdominal pain, among others. Around 28 per cent of patients had decreased cardiac function, 36 per cent suffered shock, and around 2 per cent cases resulted in deaths.

Lucas was intubated after being diagnosed with MIS-C and suffered cardiac arrest while he was in the ICU, reported BBC. The doctor who was treating the kid said she was surprised at the seriousness of his condition since he did not have any risk factors in terms of comorbidities or overweight. A CT scan discovered that Lucas had had a stroke and later died after a sudden drop in heart rate and oxygen level, as per the report.

According to experts quoted by BBC, Brazil’s sheer number of Covid-19 cases have led to an increase in infection among babies and young children. While Brazil’s official data suggest that Covid-19 killed at least 852 children up to the age of nine, Dr Fatima Marinho, a leading epidemiologist from the University of São Paolo, did research that estimated the virus killed 2,060 children under nine years old, including 1,302 babies. Marinho told BBC that she is seeing more cases of MIS-C than ever before, highlighting that there is a misconception that children are at a zero risk for Covid-19.

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Russia prepares for devastating war; 30,000 more troops cross border; Ukraine shocked

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Thirty thousands of Russian troops massing near the Ukrainian border, convoys of tanks, and a deadly escalation in the grinding trench war in eastern Ukraine.

These storm clouds on Europe’s eastern flank are causing grave alarm in Washington and across the continent.

“We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders since 2014,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday after flying to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “That is a deep concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States.”

In a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day, President Joe Biden declared Washington’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” a White House readout said.

Western officials and experts are now trying to decipher what Moscow might be planning: Is Putin testing Biden’s mettle — or is he actually trying to spark a fresh military conflict on the fringes of Europe?

“The optimistic assessment is that this is meant to intimidate Ukraine,” said Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a research group based in Virginia. “The pessimistic assessment, which I think is a lower probability but nonetheless very worth considering, is that Russia is actually spoiling for a fight and that they’re looking to bait Ukraine into a miscalculation.”

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in conflict since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and began supporting separatists in the country’s east. That war has rumbled on ever since, costing some 14,000 lives despite a series of shaky ceasefires.

But since March experts say they are witnessing something new.

Russia has started sending thousands of troops, tanks, artillery and other units to Crimea and regions along its 1,200-mile land border with Ukraine, according to Western governments and independent experts who monitor these maneuvers.

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The Russian troops number 40,000 in Crimea and another 40,000 in other regions along the border, Iuliia Mendel, spokeswoman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Monday.

Given that the Russian military has an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 troops, “that would be approximately 10 percent of the Russian military’s total manpower,” according to Rob Lee, a former U.S. Marine who now tracks military deployments at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

Russia says these movements are “training missions,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday. But experts say they don’t fit the usual pattern for these wargames. Russian military officials haven’t provided the usual level of detail or forewarning.

“They are deliberately leaving their intentions ambiguous here,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, the fragile ceasefire that’s kept the Donbas conflict at a simmer has deteriorated, with more than 30 Ukrainian soldiers killed already this year, compared with 49 in 2020, Ukraine says.

In response, U.S. European Command has raised its threat level to the highest available, the New York Times reported. And it is planning to send two warships to the Black Sea, according to Turkey, which controls passage into it. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on both of these actions at recent briefings.

“If Russia acts recklessly,” Blinken told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday, “there will be consequences.”

After meeting Blinken on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “Russian buildup is taking place, not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of democratic world.”

The problem for these allies is that it is still unclear what Russia is trying to do — much less how the West might be able to respond.

“The force assembled is large and heavy and could go deep and do some ugly stuff to Ukraine,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat. Is that what Russia intends to do? “I think an honest answer to your question would be: ‘I have no idea,'” he said.

Russia says it’s free to move troops internally however it likes.

“Russia has never been a threat to anyone and does not pose a threat,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Monday.

The Kremlin has tried to turn the narrative on its head, accusing the U.S. and NATO of being the ones responsible for raising the temperature.

“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news wires. “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good.”

Ryabkov referred to the U.S. as an “adversary” — a word the U.S. uses to describe Russia, but a clear shift from Russia’s preferred term “partner” when referring to the U.S.

Many experts believe a Russian military offensive is not impossible but unlikely; it would be costly for Putin and it’s unclear what he would gain. The buildup has been slow and ostentatious, whereas a genuine invasion would be rapid and more covert.

More likely, according to these observers, is that Russia is attempting to intimidate Ukraine, perhaps to gain leverage in the stalled peace talks over the Donbas conflict.

Putin is also sending a message to Biden and Ukraine’s European allies, according to Fabrice Pothier, a consulting senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank.

Biden has deployed harsher rhetoric toward Putin compared with President Donald Trump, and last month the U.S. announced $125 million in military aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine is renewing calls to join NATO, something the alliance promised in 2008 but is vehemently opposed by Russia.

“Putin is testing what President Biden’s Russia-Ukraine policy is really made of,” said Pothier, NATO’s former head of policy planning. “Is the U.S. willing to go as far as providing either indirect or direct military support to Ukraine forces? Basically, is the U.S. willing to go into some kind of escalation with Russia?”

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