August 1, 2018

Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son Noah Pozner was one of 19 first-graders murdered in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, are suing Alex Jones for defamation Wednesday in a courtroom in Austin. They won't be in court, partly due to safety concerns — the couple says they've been forced to move seven times since 2012 because devotees of Jones' Infowars media empire have tracked them down and published their address after every move. Infowars has repeatedly pushed the false conspiracy theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax perpetrated by gun control advocates and De La Rosa is a "crisis actor" in on the plot.

Jones wants the defamation case, and a separate one scheduled to start Thursday in the same Austin courthouse, "dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which protects citizens' right to free speech against plaintiffs who aim to silence them through costly litigation," The New York Times reports. "Jones is seeking more than $100,000 in court costs from the Pozner family." The second defamation case was brought by Marcel Fontaine, who Infowars falsely identified as the gunman in February's mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Nine Sandy Hook families have filed a third suit against Jones in Connecticut.

In court filings, Pozner recounts that after he successfully got YouTube to pull an Infowar video in 2015, "Mr. Jones went on an angry rant about me for nearly an hour" then "showed his audience my personal information and maps to addresses associated with my family." In 2016, an Infowars fan was arrested for repeatedly threatening to kill Pozner. Jones' lawyer argues that Jones' conspiracy theories are constitutionally protected opinions and that Pozner and De La Rosa are public figures because they publicly advocate against spreading lies online and for banning assault rifles. If the judge agrees they are public figures, Pozner and De La Rosa will have to prove actual malice, a higher bar. Peter Weber

9:37 p.m.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, is the latest Iranian government official to contract coronavirus.

At least seven officials in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID-19. Ebtekar is the highest-ranking woman in Iran's government, and is now quarantined at home, her deputy announced on Thursday. She was photographed on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting, sitting just a few yards away from President Hassan Rouhani.

The other infected officials are Iraj Harirchim, deputy health minister; Mojtaba Zolnour, a Parliament member from Qom and head of Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of Parliament from Tehran; Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district; Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom; and Hadi Khosroshahi, a major cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican. Iran's official media has reported that Khosroshahi, 81, has died.

The first case of coronavirus in Iran was reported on Feb. 19 in Qom. Health Ministry officials on Thursday said there are 245 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 people have died from the virus. Health experts estimate there are many more COVID-19 cases in Iran, because the death rate is so high. Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and 22 other cities, and all schools and universities are closed until March 21. Catherine Garcia

8:23 p.m.

Federal health employees who met coronavirus evacuees at two California military bases earlier this year did not receive proper training in safety protocols until five days after their arrival, a whistleblower said.

The New York Times obtained a portion of the whistleblower's complaint, which said the workers also did not have adequate protective gear. The whistleblower is described as being a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, and submitted their complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel.

The whistleblower said the workers were "improperly deployed" to March Air Reserve Base and Travis Air Force Base. They went into the quarantined areas where the evacuees were being processed, and then would walk around other areas of the base. At least one worker stayed at a nearby hotel and flew back home on a commercial flight, and only a few knew that they needed to monitor their temperature three times a day.

The whistleblower said that throughout the operation, they fielded "panicked calls" from deployed staffers who "expressed concern with the lack of HHS communication and coordination." When senior Trump administration officials later heard their concerns, the staffers were "admonished," the whistleblower said, and had their "mental health and emotional stability questioned." The staffers believe the administration is trying to "whitewash" what happened, the whistleblower continued, and won't listen to their health and safety concerns.

Travis Air Force Base is in Solano County in Northern California. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first known instance of a person in the United States testing positive for coronavirus without traveling abroad or having known exposure to someone with the virus. The patient lives in Solano County, and the CDC said it is possible they came in contact with a person who caught coronavirus abroad and came to the United States infected. Catherine Garcia

7:03 p.m.

A Syrian government airstrike Thursday in the country's Idlib province killed at least 29 Turkish soldiers, a Turkish official said.

Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province, said additional troops were injured, while the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll higher, at 34. Local media reports that after the airstrike, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called an emergency meeting of his top security officials.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have control of some territory in Idlib, and the Syrian government, with the support of Russia, is trying to retake those areas. Turkey began sending more troops to Idlib earlier this month, in an attempt to slow down the Syrian army's advance across the province. The intense fighting has sparked Syria's latest humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of displaced people are now fleeing toward the Turkish border. Catherine Garcia

4:52 p.m.

Caity Weaver at The New York Times has laid out a fascinating "royal Instagram mystery" proposing that something fishy is afoot when it comes to the follower counts of Prince William and Kate Middleton's @KensingtonRoyal account, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's newer @SussexRoyal account.

"From the outset, @SussexRoyal was runaway popular," Weaver writes, adding that within a month and a half, Harry and Meghan's account amassed as many followers as @KensingtonRoyal had managed in four years. And yet "it seemed, from the outside, that no matter how many followers @SussexRoyal gained, it could never quite catch up" with William and Kate's account.

Coincidence? Or is @KensingtonRoyal "receiving follower boosts in the form of bots" to keep it ahead?

Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

4:33 p.m.

The Lizzie McGuire reboot might be dead in the water, but that isn't stopping Disney+ from going forward with its other nostalgic revivals.

On Thursday, the streamer announced it will be bringing back the animated sitcom The Proud Family with its original voice cast, per Good Morning America. The show, which initially ran from 2001-2005, doesn't have a premiere date yet, although it does have a new name: The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

"In our minds, the show never really went away, as we still had tons of stories left to tell," producers Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar said in a joint statement. Jeva Lange

4:27 p.m.

Coronavirus fears sent U.S. markets into correction territory on Thursday, down more than 10 percent from record highs after days of losses, reports CNBC.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Thursday down almost 1,200 points, or over 4.4 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were each off 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

President Trump has sought to reassure investors that the coronavirus outbreak, which has affected countries around the world, is only a small worry for the stock market. He said Wednesday the market would recover, claiming the U.S. is "really prepared" for the virus and blaming Democratic presidential candidates for the dip. The Dow has lost more than 3,000 points this week.

The slip is the fastest the stock market has ever dipped into correction territory, per Deutsche Bank. The next-fastest decline occurred in 2018. The Dow and S&P 500 are on pace for their worst weekly performance since 2008, notes CNBC.

3:58 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be looking for a bump from the Yang Gang.

The Bloomberg campaign has been seeking an endorsement from entrepreneur and former 2020 candidate Andrew Yang and even floated him as a potential running made, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"Aides to the former New York City mayor reached out to discuss ways the two entrepreneurs-turned-politicians could work together as Mr. Bloomberg seeks the Democratic nomination," the Journal writes, although Yang reportedly "didn't commit to join forces."

The Bloomberg campaign told the Journal that Yang isn't being seriously considered to be his running mate, and a senior Bloomberg aide denied to NBC's Josh Lederman that he never was.

Since dropping out of the race, Yang has been a contributor for CNN. He recently took part in a CNN discussion about Bloomberg's debate debut, during which he said the former mayor came across as "lethargic and uninterested" and was not "properly prepared." Yang also theorized Bloomberg has no one on his team "who could be like, 'That was terrible. This is going to potentially damage your campaign to a very, very high degree.'"

Meanwhile, Bloomberg in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday said he'd "consider everybody" to be his running mate should he win the Democratic nomination, but when asked who he's talked to, he shot back, "Why would I tell you?" Brendan Morrow

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