On Monday, somebody shot down a Ukrainian military An-26 transport plane carrying food and water to Ukrainian troops trying to rout the pro-Moscow separatists gathered in their strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk. The separatists claimed responsibility for the downing of the plane and said they captured four crew members, but Ukraine reportedly says it has "undisputed proof" that Russia was involved.
The airplane was flying at more than 21,000 feet, Ukraine says, putting it out of the reach of the shoulder-fired rockets the separatists have used so far. Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said that the plane had been "downed by another, more powerful missile that probably was launched from the territory of the Russian Federation," either from a surface-to-air system or a Russian jet. Russia, for its part, is threatening Ukraine with "irreversible consequences" for an artillery round that fell in Russian territory, killing a civilian.
NATO says that Russia has been slowly increasing its troop levels near the Ukraine border, with up to 12,000 troops in the area, from about 1,000 in mid-June. The U.S. is also accusing Russia of sending heavy weapons and military personnel to help lead the separatists in their battle against Kiev. "While Russia says it seeks peace, its actions do not match its rhetoric," the U.S. government said in a statement. Peter Weber
The next census is getting another update.
Aside from the addition of a controversial citizenship question, the 2020 census will also count same-sex couples for the first time in U.S. history, the Census Bureau recently announced.
Previously, the census gathered data about coupled households with two options: "husband or wife" or "unmarried partner." Now, people will able to check "opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse," "same-sex husband/wife/spouse," "opposite-sex unmarried partner," or "same-sex unmarried partner."
The Census Bureau told NBC News that the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage on a federal level made the change necessary. The number of same-sex couples has previously been estimated by cross-checking spouses' answers to the form's gender question.
Census data, collected once a decade, helps determine how to allocate federal funding to state and local governments, as well as assists in assigning the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state. Many advocacy groups have pushed for the census to include a question about same-sex couples, NBC News reports. Summer Meza
Watch Trump awkwardly remove 'that little piece of dandruff' from French President Emmanuel Macron's shoulder
Friends don't let friends get up in front of the world with a bit of dandruff on their shoulder, but friends also do not announce the dandruff situation to the multinational press, either. President Trump apparently only got the first part of the memo Tuesday when he praised his "very special relationship" with French President Emmanuel Macron before declaring, "I'll get that little piece of dandruff off [you]." The president of the United States then proceeded to brush the president of France's shoulder to remedy the problem.
As if to explain himself, Trump then said, "We have to make him perfect, he is perfect," while Macron laughed like an extremely good sport. Still — next time, a pointed look or a wordless brush disguised as a pat on the shoulder will do! Watch the awkward moment below. Jeva Lange
Trump on Macron: “We have a very special relationship, in fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off…we have to make him perfect, he is perfect.” https://t.co/GGsfve3KYB pic.twitter.com/vzV2Dech86
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) April 24, 2018
Former FBI Director James Comey's book is hot off the presses and hot on the bestseller list.
Comey's memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, has sold more than 600,000 copies in just its first week, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
It has already outsold many other polarizing, political books — including Hillary Clinton's post-election memoir, What Happened, and Michael Wolff's tell-all about President Trump's first months in office, Fire and Fury. Clinton's book sold around 300,000 copies in all formats in its first week, while Wolff's sold about 200,000 hardcover copies in its first week, the Times reports.
Comey's book recounts his experience as FBI director during the 2016 presidential election and under the Trump administration, detailing his decision to publicly announce an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server and recalling conversations with Trump that eventually led to Comey's firing last year. The former FBI official has been on a major media blitz in recent weeks, drawing Twitter ire from the president and garnering countless headlines about the contents of the book.
The Times reports that Comey's publisher has had to order multiple reprints of his book to keep up with the booming sales, and has more than a million copies in print. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza
"There is a Revolution going on in California," President Trump opined on Twitter last week. "Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept."
Research by Tom K. Wong, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, says otherwise. He interviewed a representative sample of nearly 600 illegal immigrants from Mexico in San Diego County, asking about how sanctuary city policies shape their interactions with police.
The results were dramatic: If "local law enforcement officials were working together with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)], 60.8 percent said they are less likely to report a crime they witnessed, and 42.9 percent said they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime." That stark difference held true across other scenarios, too:
Wong concludes that sanctuary policies encourage undocumented immigrants to report crime to the police, and that "counties with sanctuary policies have less crime than comparable non-sanctuary counties, or that there is no statistically significant relationship between city sanctuary policies and increased crime rates." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump will share his first state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening, and only Republicans are invited. Breaking with tradition, the White House did not include any members of the media or congressional Democrats.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on CNN on Tuesday that the move would not have been his choice. "I would have included — and this is just me; the president can select his own management style — I would have included more of a cross-section. I would have included the media," he told host Chris Cuomo. "I think it would have sent a better message, just my opinion, if we included a cross-section of Congress. You can't include everybody, but that's Democrats, independents, and Republicans."
Watch a clip of the conversation below. Bonnie Kristian
GOP Sen. John Kennedy says he would have invited Democrats and the media to the White House state dinner tonight: "I think it would have sent a better message ... if we included a cross-section of Congress" https://t.co/vpRNObvuvU https://t.co/Lv1oWNSe4s
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 24, 2018
The fierce debate on gun control has led people on both sides to put money where their mouths are.
The NRA raised more money in March 2018 than any other month in the past 15 years, Federal Elections Commission records reported by the Miami Herald show.
The organization's Victory Fund, used for backing political campaigns, raised $2.4 million last month, and the majority came from small donors who gave less than $200. The boom in fundraising coincided with student-led March for Our Lives protests, which followed a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. The March for Our Lives Action Fund, meanwhile, has raised $3.5 million since Feb. 18, just four days after the shooting.
In March 2017, the NRA Victory Fund raised $884,000, while February 2018 brought in just $800,000. The major jump in last month's donations follows a pattern — the organization also saw a rise in fundraising after a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Herald reports that the NRA spends money from its Victory Fund on political campaigns for candidates who oppose stricter gun control laws, but is often limited by state and federal campaign finance laws. The organization spends many millions more through its lobbying arm: For example, it spent $31 million to oppose Hillary Clinton and support President Trump in the 2016 election. Read more at the Miami Herald. Summer Meza
A deadly van attack broke through an idyllic afternoon in Toronto on Monday, when a man driving a white van mounted the sidewalk and crashed into pedestrians. The incident, which occurred on the city's famous Yonge Street, left 10 people dead and 15 more injured.
Hours later, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Boston Bruins at Air Canada Centre for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup. The Leafs entered the series trailing 3-2, but kept their Stanley Cup hopes alive with a 3-1 win that forced a Game 7.
But before the triumph on the ice, the Leafs held a moment of silence for the lives lost on Yonge Street. Then came time for the customary performance of the national anthem, "O Canada," which Leafs anthem singer Martina Ortiz-Luis was set to sing — until the crowd chimed in. Watch the emotional moment below. Kimberly Alters
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 23, 2018