There's nothing funny about this story: 21-year-old Marco Gusmini was killed on Thursday afternoon near Cevo, Italy, when a giant crucifix sculpture fell over and crushed him. The local tragedy is only international news because the 100-foot-tall cross, with 20-foot statue of Jesus affixed, was dedicated to Pope John Paul II, who will be canonized on Sunday along with one of his two papal namesakes, Pope John XXIII. According to La Repubblica, Gusmini had resided on Via Giovanni XXIII — John XXIII Street — in the nearby town of Lovere.
— la Repubblica (@repubblicait) April 24, 2014
There are those, of course, who will see this as an ill omen — as Michael Brendan Dougherty noted Thursday, John Paul II's imminent sainthood isn't without controversy, both because it comes so soon after his death and because the charismatic Polish pope failed to address the sex abuse of children by Catholic clergy that happened or came to light under his long watch. And Good Pope John is credited with only one miracle, when you generally need two for canonization.
But portent or not, the curved sculpture — designed by Enrico Job to celebrate the pope's 1998 visit to Brescia, held up by steel cables — did sort of look like an accident waiting to happen:
I'm going to come down on the not-omen side. But even if this is somehow John Paul II's fault, metaphysically speaking, it won't affect Sunday's canonization: Sainthood doesn't work on an addition/subtraction scale. He is credited with posthumously saving two lives; he wouldn't have one miracle taken away because of some frayed cables, bad timing, and a 1,300-pound statue of Cristo Redentore — Christ the Redeemer. Peter Weber
Often called the Rolls-Royce of alpine sports, Foil has outdone itself with its limited-edition Oro-Amaranto Jackie Chan skis ($42,000). Tuned to the specifications of the veteran action star, who is both a fine skier and a collector of rare woods, these outrageously luxurious foot-extenders have 14-karat-gold-plated bindings and are made from purpleheart, a hardwood prized for its density, water resistance, and beautiful color. Foil also makes skis from Bog Oak — culled from trees buried in peat bogs and thus preserved for up to 8,000 years. The company is working now to develop a high-performance ski made of solid gold.
Former NFL player forces Los Angeles school to close after tagging it in apparently threatening Instagram post
Former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin forced a Los Angeles-area high school to close Friday after making a cryptic post on Instagram, the New York Post reports.
Martin was viciously harassed by a number of his Dolphins teammates, including Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, starting in his rookie year in 2012, an NFL report released in 2014 found. The report concluded that the harassment eventually led "to Martin's decision to leave the team, as well [as] contribute[d] to his mental health and suicidal thoughts," SB Nation reports.
Martin used his private Instagram account to post a photo of a shotgun and bullets, as well as the names of former teammates, including Incognito and Pouncey. He also included the name of the high school he attended, Harvard-Westlake, and the text: "When you're a bully victim and a coward, your options are suicide or revenge."
Former Dolphins OL Jonathan Martin with some seriously disturbing stuff on his IG story... pic.twitter.com/NaJ8a0BXze
— Nick Brown (@NickyBeaster) February 23, 2018
In the 2014 NFL report, Martin had also expressed distress over being "a pushover, a people-pleaser," texting friends and family to say: "I mostly blame the soft schools I went to, which fostered within me a feeling that I'm a huge p--sy, as I never got into fights. I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size."
In a statement, the school said: "Last evening, we learned of an internet post that mentions Harvard-Westlake by name. Out of an abundance of caution, and because the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority, we made the decision to close school today. We are working closely with law enforcement and will share more information when we are able." Jeva Lange
Rick Gates, a former adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy and another of lying to the FBI, charges brought against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sentencing guidelines put Gates in the range of a prison term of 57 to 71 months, Reuters reports, although those numbers could be brought down based on cooperation in the investigation.
"Gates could provide the special counsel with valuable information about the inner workings of Trump's operation: He served as a senior figure in the campaign and had access to the White House as an outside adviser in the early months of the administration," The Washington Post writes.
Mueller's office had filed 32 additional charges against Gates and Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on Thursday. The pair had additionally been indicted on 12 counts of financial crimes last October. Gates had reportedly been working to finalize a plea deal with Mueller last week, making him potentially the third person known to be cooperating with the special counsel's investigation, after Trump's former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Jeva Lange
14-year-old Parkland survivor calls out Melania Trump for sitting by as Donald Trump Jr. cyberbullied her
Fourteen-year-old Lauren Hogg, who survived the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last week but lost four of her friends, rebuked first lady Melania Trump on Friday after Donald Trump Jr. "liked" tweets pushing conspiracy theories about the students.
Hogg's older brother, 17-year-old David Hogg, was the target of such tweets liked by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week. The conspiracy theories allege Hogg, who has made powerful statements calling for bipartisan action on gun violence, is "running cover for his dad," who is a former FBI agent.
"Hey @FLOTUS, you say that your mission as first lady is to stop cyber bullying," Lauren Hogg tweeted, "well then, don't you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your stepson, @DonaldJTrumpJr, before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory, which in turn put a target on my back and created a safe space for people all over the world to call me and my family horrific things that constantly re-victimizes us and our community?"
Hogg added: "I'm 14, I should never have had to deal with any of this and even though I thought it couldn't get worse, it has because of your family." Jeva Lange
— Garance Franke-Ruta (@thegarance) February 23, 2018
The White House announced Friday that President Trump has authorized an extension of the disaster declaration in Puerto Rico. Under the extension, the island will receive 90 more days of federal funding for "debris removal" and 60 more days of funding for "emergency protective measures," to help continue recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria last September. The announcement amends Trump's previous disaster declaration, under which federal aid would have ended in mid-March.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) February 23, 2018
The Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria has been heavily criticized, and recovery efforts have been marred by bungled federal contracts for disaster relief. Almost half a year after the Category 5 hurricane hit Puerto Rico, 15 percent of the island remains without power. Kelly O'Meara Morales
InfoWars is just two strikes away from being kicked off YouTube for good after posting a video claiming the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting are "crisis actors," CNN reports. YouTube removed the offending video, titled "David Hogg Can't Remember His Lines In TV Interview," on Wednesday, citing the violation of its policies on harassment and bullying.
YouTube's guidelines state that if an account receives two strikes in a three-month period, it will be banned for two weeks, and if it receives two more strikes in three months, the account will be permanently banned. InfoWars founder Alex Jones has spread conspiracy theories about school shootings before, including claiming the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was fake. Jones has said there is "officially … about a 90 percent chance" the attack in Florida was a "deep state false flag operation."
CNN reached out to YouTube after identifying three more instances of InfoWars pushing hoaxes on its account, and YouTube confirmed it would investigate. Of the Parkland video, a YouYube spokesperson said: "Last summer we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies. Any video flagged to us that violates this policy is reviewed and then removed."
The United States announced a new set of sanctions on North Korea on Friday. The sanctions are specifically aimed at 27 entities, 28 vessels, and one lone individual accused of shipping goods illegally to North Korea and helping further leader Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons program. In a statement, the Treasury Department called the actions "the largest North Korea-related sanctions tranche to date." President Trump's administration has enacted various sets of sanctions against North Korea in ongoing efforts to curb their nuclear ambitions.
Those punished in this new round of sanctions will be prohibited from doing business with people in the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: "This will significantly hinder the Kim regime's capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and erode its abilities to ship goods through international waters."
Trump was expected to detail the sanctions during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, but he only referenced them in passing, describing them as "the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before." Kelly O'Meara Morales