April 28, 2014

More than 30 tornadoes tore through several states in the Plains and mid-South last night, killing at least 17 people and destroying hundreds of homes and buildings.

Arkansas, where at least 16 were killed, was the state hit hardest by the storms. In the northwestern Little Rock suburbs of Mayflower and Vilonia alone, at least 10 people lost their lives and 150 homes were destroyed.

"What I'm seeing is something that I cannot describe in words," Sheriff Andy Shock told NBC News. "It is utter and sheer devastation."

After a half-mile wide tornado ripped through the area, a drone captured the sheer magnitude of the damage left in its wake:

The strong band of storms that caused the tornado are moving east today, putting more states, including Louisiana, Ohio, and the Carolinas, on high alert for severe weather. Jordan Valinsky

12:22 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron was all smiles with President Trump during their joint press conference Tuesday, but his Wednesday speech to Congress made it clear where their views diverge.

Macron appeared before Congress to address lawmakers as a part of an official state visit by France, where he denounced several of the Trump administration's policy moves, CNN reports. Macron encouraged the U.S. to refrain from turning inwards, urging lawmakers away from nationalism and toward policies with a more global view.

"I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom and the illusion of nationalism," Macron said, per Reuters. "We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism — this is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy for our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world."

Macron expressed certainty that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate agreement "one day" and described the urgency of protecting the environment. "There is no planet B," he said.

He additionally pledged to keep France locked into the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump called "insane" Tuesday. Macron appealed to Congress to remain in the deal, saying it was the better choice as there is no "substantial" alternative. Summer Meza

11:25 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Don Blankenship, the Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia, may want to update his outdated vocabulary.

While speaking to a West Virginia radio show Monday, Blankenship referred to the father of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as "a wealthy Chinaperson." The comment came as Blankenship has been facing fierce opposition from Republican establishment leaders who want to see a more traditional GOP candidate in West Virginia, reports The New York Times including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chao's husband.

Blankenship, a former coal mining executive, spent a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards and is still on parole. He has been the subject of attack ads paid for by a super PAC that backs McConnell that emphasize that Blankenship is a "convicted criminal" and accuse him of purposefully pumping coal slurry into local drinking water.

In response to the segments, Blankenship told the radio show that McConnell had conflicts of interest because of his marriage to Chao. Chao's father is "a wealthy Chinaperson," Blankenship said, per the Times, adding that McConnell is "soft on China" because of his connections there.

Blankenship himself has considered seeking citizenship in China — a country he said is successful because of "dictatorial capitalism" — and once started a business to import generators from China. He stopped running the trade company when he was sentenced to prison, however. Blankenship's own ads describe his sentencing as an unfair and overblown misunderstanding, caused by an "Obama judge" and team of "Obama prosecutors" who wanted to bring him down because of their hatred of the coal industry.

Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

11:02 a.m. ET

Several South Carolina prison guards and workers have been indicted by a federal grand jury over smuggling contraband such as cell phones, tobacco, and drugs to inmates, The Post and Courier reports. The move follows a riot last week at the maximum-security prison Lee Correctional Institute that was "all about territory, all about contraband," in the words of South Carolina prisons chief Bryan Stirling. Seven people were killed in the fight, and 22 others injured.

"These people are fighting about real money and real territory when they are incarcerated," Stirling said, adding that the incident was sparked in part over cell phones, which can allow gangs to continue to conduct criminal activity while incarcerated, CBS News reports. Jeva Lange

9:51 a.m. ET

The United States has dropped to the 45th spot in the World Press Freedom Index, down two places due in part to President Trump, the organization writes. "A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as 'enemies of the people,' the term once used by Joseph Stalin," the organization responsible for the list, Reporters Without Borders, writes as part of its justification.

There are 180 countries evaluated annually on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, which notes a "growing animosity" worldwide towards journalists. "Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies," the World Press Freedom Index says in summary of 2017.

Norway is in first place on the list for the second year in a row, followed by Sweden. North Korea is in last place at 180th, with Russia (148), Turkey (157), and China (176) close behind.

"The U.S.'s decline in press freedom is not simply bad news for journalists working inside the country; the downward trend has drastic consequences at the international level," adds Reporters Without Borders. "'Fake news' is now a trademark excuse for media repression, in both democratic and authoritarian regimes." Read the full details of the findings via Politico here. Jeva Lange

9:44 a.m. ET
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North Korea's decision to cease nuclear tests may not have been wholly out of the benevolence of leader Kim Jong Un.

A major nuclear test facility in North Korea was damaged after the nation's latest detonation, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, leaving it largely unusable.

Researchers in China found that a test blast in September caused a cavity in a mountain in northeast North Korea to collapse. Within that mountain is the Punggye-ri test facility. The collapse left North Korea with no choice but to close the site's doors to avoid an "environmental catastrophe," the researchers said.

North Korea has launched six nuclear tests, and the last was the largest. Seismologists have estimated that the blast caused a 6.3-magnitude tremor that likely collapsed underground infrastructure, the Journal reports. No nuclear contamination has been detected as a result of the incident, Chinese officials said.

The research was made public just days after Kim announced that he would pause North Korea's nuclear testing. President Trump considered it a piece of good news ahead of his planned summit with Kim, but experts say Kim's pledge may be a less meaningful concession if his test infrastructure was destroyed anyway. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza

9:25 a.m. ET

A 72-year-old man was arrested overnight on the suspicion that he is the long-sought "Golden State Killer" responsible for at least 10 homicides and 50 rapes in California between 1976 and 1986, The Daily Beast reports. The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, has not yet been "confirmed" as the Golden State Killer, although because of ample DNA evidence from crime scenes, a scientific confirmation could be relatively quick to follow. The Sacramento police are expected to hold a news conference at noon local time.

Billy Jensen, who helped research and complete a new book about the Golden State Killer by the late crime writer Michelle McNamara, said DeAngelo "looks good" as a suspect. Read more about the decades of work that have gone into solving the mystery here at The Week. Jeva Lange

9:09 a.m. ET

Danish submarine inventor Peter Madsen, 47, has been sentenced to life in prison for the torture and grisly murder of journalist Kim Wall, 30. Life imprisonment is the maximum sentence in Denmark, and it is rarely imposed, The New York Times reports.

Madsen was unanimously convicted of sexually assaulting and killing Wall last year, with prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen telling the court that it is "a case so heinous and repulsive that as a prosecutor, it renders you speechless." Wall, a freelance journalist, had met with Madsen for a trip on his submarine for a story she was working on in August 2017. The prosecutor argued Buch-Jepsen had plotted to assault and kill Wall on board.

The submarine, which was sunk by Madsen in an apparent attempt to hide the evidence, was ordered by the court to be seized and destroyed. Jeva Lange

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