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Three Big Things
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As Trump denies wrongdoing, pace of Russia probe quickens

As Trump denies wrongdoing, pace of Russia probe quickens

Even as President Donald Trump again denounced the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to his campaign as a ‘witch hunt,’ federal prosecutors on Monday reached a plea bargain agreement with a Russian woman accused of illegal political activity in the U.S., and the Special Counsel’s office prepared to reveal details of alleged lies by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case suddenly scheduled a status hearing for Tuesday afternoon, as Robert Mueller’s office is expected to publicly file a redacted version of a report on what lies the government claims that Manafort told investigators, even after agreeing to cooperate with the Russia investigation. As he did with earlier procedural actions in a Washington federal courtroom, Manafort waived his right to be at the Tuesday hearing, again saying the time involved in being transported from prison to the D.C. courthouse was not worth the effort. List of things happening this week, so far: Manafort sentencing hearing – Tuesday Butina plea hearing – Wednesday Cohen sentencing hearing – Wednesday And the list will likely grow. — Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) December 10, 2018 While Manafort suddenly had a Tuesday court hearing scheduled, there were new developments on Monday in the case of 29 year old Maria Butina, who has been jailed since July, charged with illegal political activity in the United States, amid questions related to her ties to the National Rifle Association and the GOP. It was not immediately apparent what was involved in Butina’s change of heart, as a federal judge set a plea hearing for Wednesday afternoon, several hours after the scheduled sentencing in New York for former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Democrats continued Monday to raise questions about Butina and the NRA, as well as the broader issue of whether Russian money was funneled through the NRA and into the 2016 campaign for President. “Maria Butina is set to plead guilty based on her efforts to influence American politics through the NRA,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). “There is still a lot we don’t know about the NRA’s campaign spending and connections to the Kremlin.” “Another bad day for Individual-1 and his inner circle,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Dear @NRA: Now I know why you refused to answer the letter I wrote with other Members of Congress in March about Russian efforts to influence you. Will the Maria Butina plea expose what you are hiding in your clenched fist? Oh, and I have 3 words for you: January is coming. https://t.co/TPbshZtXDJ — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 10, 2018 Back in 2015, Butina happened to appear at a Q&A session with then candidate Donald Trump, and asked him a question about U.S. relations with Russia. The Butina case was not brought by Mueller, but instead by the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. – but it still could have an overall impact on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.

‘Nothing but scorn for humanity’: Newly released writings show evolution of Sandy Hook shooter

‘Nothing but scorn for humanity’: Newly released writings show evolution of Sandy Hook shooter

Days before the sixth anniversary of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, a Connecticut newspaper has obtained writings that show the loneliness and depravity of the man responsible.  Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Dec. 14, 2012, using a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle to gun down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six educators, including the school’s principal and and teachers who used their own bodies to shield students from the barrage of bullets. Lanza, who then killed himself, had also gunned down his mother, shooting Nancy Lanza four times in the head before leaving their home for the school.  Lanza was armed with the assault rifle and multiple handguns when he gained entrance to the locked school by shooting out a plate glass window next to the front doors. >> Read more trending news The Hartford Courant obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents from the Connecticut State Police about Lanza and the shooting, including Lanza’s own writings and a spreadsheet in which he cataloged 400 murderers who unleashed mass violence on the world. The Courant spent five years seeking the documents, ultimately winning access through the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Part of what was documented by the files was Lanza’s extreme scorn for those around him. “I incessantly have nothing other than scorn for humanity,” Lanza wrote in what the Courant said appeared to be an online communication with a fellow video game enthusiast. “I have been desperate to feel anything positive for someone for my entire life.” His hatred began with his parents, who, according to a psychiatrist’s evaluation written about six years before the massacre, Lanza said got separated because “they were irritating to each other as they are to him.” Lanza was also irritated by his brother Ryan Lanza, the Courant reported.  Dr. Robert King, who in 2006 evaluated a 14-year-old Adam Lanza at the Yale Child Study Center, also noted Lanza’s scorn for those outside his family. He stopped playing saxophone in the school band because the students “all played badly. No one practiced. No one paid attention,” the newspaper said.  King found that, while Lanza was a “careful reader,” he had “no grasp of empathy for characters’ motives, feelings or perspectives,” the documents said.  Lanza, whose autopsy found he was malnourished and emaciated, also disliked “fat people,” according to the files. He was 6 feet tall and weighed just 112 pounds when he walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and began shooting.  Dr. Harold Schwartz, former director of psychiatry at Hartford HealthCare and a former member of the Sandy Hook Commission, told the newspaper that Lanza, who may have had anorexia, could have suffered brain damage from starvation.  Lanza, who as a child had been diagnosed with a sensory disorder and speech delays, was good with math, computers, science and languages, the Courant reported. Many people -- his parents, teachers, counselors and psychiatrists -- all struggled to understand the boy, who by 14 was already becoming a “homebound recluse.”  None fully suspected what he would become.  The isolation from his peers began as early as age 3, the Courant’s review of the documents found. “Adam’s parents said Adam’s speech attempts were not easily understood, and that Adam became quickly frustrated when others asked him to repeat himself,” a February 1995 speech evaluation of the not-yet-3-year-old read. “Recently Adam reportedly began hitting, spitting and crying when he could not make his needs known.” When he could not be understood, he simply said the same thing louder, the report said, according to the newspaper. He would not try to supplement his speech with facial expressions or gestures to help others understand him better. One of the diagnoses Lanza would receive in his lifetime was autism spectrum disorder. His mother told people her son has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.  As he got older, he apparently suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder and a phobia of germs. He also used black trash bags to black out the windows of his bedroom, where he would spend hours playing video games and would sometimes speak to his mother only via email.  Nancy Lanza told specialists that she was worried about her young son because he had stopped trying to speak in groups due to the speech delays, the Courant reported. Young Adam Lanza became increasingly dependent on his mother after his parents separated when he was 9 years old, the newspaper said.  The worried mother seemed to understand that her son’s condition would only get worse without the proper interventions.  “One on one he is extraordinary. In a classroom setting he is performing well below age level,” she wrote in a document obtained by the Courant. “Other children will tease him and undermine his confidence. He will learn to talk less, not more. Already some children are saying he’s weird when they don’t understand him.  “At this point he thinks it’s funny when they say that. As he gets older, he will realize that it isn’t.” Along with his isolation, his sensory issues became worse as he grew older, the documents showed. He was more sensitive to sound, light, textures and movement. He turned away from classmates and set up rules for himself that served to further isolate him.  “Relationships have absolutely no physical aspect to me; all that matters is communication,” Lanza wrote to a chat room acquaintance in a document obtained by the Courant.  A list titled “Problems” laid out some of the obsessions and compulsions ruling his existence. The list included lights that were too bright, too many dirty dishes in the sink and a lack of tissues in the pantry. “You were in the room while I was in the kitchen,” one entry stated. “My arms kept touching things,” said another. “My hair touched Ryan’s towel in the morning,” the list said.  “I am unable to distinguish between my problems because I have too many,” Adam Lanza wrote, according to the Courant.  In another, undated document, Lanza lamented examinations by doctors, likening the touching that goes on during a physical exam to rape.  “I was molested at least a dozen times by a few different adults when I was a child. It wasn't my decision at all: I was coerced into it,” Lanza wrote, according to the Courant. “They felt me all over my body, and it usually culminated in the fondling of my penis. What do each of the adults have in common? They were doctors, and each of them were sanctioned by my parents to do it.  “This happens to virtually every child without their input into the matter: Their parents sanction it.” One of the most enlightening -- and damning -- documents the newspaper received was the 2006 report by King at Yale. King described the teen as “a pale, gaunt, awkward young adolescent standing rigidly with downcast gaze and declining to shake hands,” the Courant reported.  “Adam has a variety of rigid, controlling and avoidant behaviors, which have been loosely described as OCD, but seem to have several facets,” King wrote in the report obtained by the Courant.  Aside from the indignities he cited in his handwritten list, Lanza’s OCD tendencies also included a dislike of asymmetric objects, as well as if his mother served food on the wrong plate. He refused to share towels and objected if his mother folded clothes in his bedroom, because other people’s clothes might touch his floor. Lanza also objected to the volume at which his mother spoke on the phone, grew upset if she leaned on something or brushed by his chair and was appalled by the smell of her cooking, the Courant said. He often refused to eat his mother’s food because of the texture.   When King asked if there were other children Lanza liked spending time with, the teen asked how that was significant. The psychiatrist asked Lanza to define the term “friend,” the newspaper said.  “It is difficult to define,” Lanza responded. “In whose culture do you refer?” King asked Lanza what he would wish for if he were given three wishes. “I would wish that whatever was granting the wishes would not exist,” he responded.  Despite his isolation, Lanza appeared to long for a connection with others.  “I am capable of boundless affection,” he wrote in communication with a gamer online. “I had never been in a situation to feel that way before, so I thought that it was special… I took my focus away from myself and directed it toward you.” He also expressed his yearning for love in the notes for a play he was writing -- about pedophilia. The Courant reported that it was not clear if anyone besides Lanza had seen the document prior to the mass shooting.  In an outline for a screenplay, Lanza wrote that it would show the “beauty in the romantic relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.” “No, it’s not at all pornographic,” Lanza wrote, according to the newspaper. “And it is not satirical. Nor metaphorical. Take it for what it is.” The gunman also had a fascination with murder from an early age. The Courant reported that he and another boy wrote a book, “Big Book of Granny,” in the fifth grade, a story with references to violence against children.  One chapter of the 52-page book has a character entering a day care and telling Granny, “Let’s hurt children,” the newspaper said.  Lanza’s penchant for violence continued into his later years with his spreadsheet of mass murderers, which included killers worldwide between 1786 and 2010. Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole, who reviewed the document for the Courant, said it contained a lot of information that would not have been easy to come by.  “He’s not doing this for a term paper,” O’Toole said. “This took a lot of work and a lot of effort, and so what are the other possible reasons he could be doing this? “He’s interested in mass shootings. Now did he use this research to develop his own plan and his own strategy? It’s certainly possible.” Schwartz told the Courant that Lanza’s anger, fascination with murder, obsessions and isolation were building blocks that helped lead to the massacre.  A fifth factor -- his lack of empathy and social connections -- had to be present for Lanza to become deadly, Schwartz told the newspaper.   “In this mental state, known as solipsism, only the solipsist is real,” Schwartz said. “Everyone else in the world is a cardboard cutout, placed there for your benefit and otherwise devoid of meaning or value. It is the most extreme end of one form of malignant narcissism. “If the victims have no value than there is nothing to constrain you from shooting them,” he said. 

Officials identify 5 children, including 1-year-old twins, killed in Ohio house fire

Officials identify 5 children, including 1-year-old twins, killed in Ohio house fire

Five children are dead after a fire broke out at a home in Youngstown, Ohio, late Sunday, multiple news outlets are reporting. Update 4:10 p.m. EST Dec. 10: The Mahoning County Coroner’s Office on Monday identified the children killed in Sunday’s blaze as 9-year-old Aleysha Rosario, 3-year-old Charles Gunn, 2-year-old Ly'Asia Gunn, and 1-year-old twins Brianna and Arianna Negron, The Associated Press reported. Fire officials said a woman jumped from a second-floor window Sunday and was the only one to survive the blaze. She was identified by city officials and WFMJ as America'Amy' Negron-Acevedo, the 26-year-old mother of the children. Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the fire. Original report: According to WFMJ, firefighters responded to 434 Parkcliffe Ave. after a neighbor reported the fire about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. The children’s mother, who jumped from a window to escape the blaze, said five children were trapped inside, authorities said.  >> Read more trending news  Three children were removed from the home but later died at a nearby hospital, rescuers said. The two other children died inside the house, WKBN reported. Fire officials said the children ranged from 1 to 9 years old. The two youngest were twins, according to WKBN. The mother and one firefighter were hospitalized for injuries, WKBN reported. Another firefighter was hurt and treated at the scene, officials said. Officials don’t know yet what caused the blaze but said foul play is unlikely, WKBN reported. Read more here or here.

As Trump denies wrongdoing, pace of Russia probe quickens

Even as President Donald Trump again denounced the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to his campaign as a ‘witch hunt,’ federal prosecutors on Monday reached a plea bargain agreement with a Russian woman accused of illegal political activity in the U.S., and the Special Counsel’s office prepared to reveal details of alleged lies by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

The federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case suddenly scheduled a status hearing for Tuesday afternoon, as Robert Mueller’s office is expected to publicly file a redacted version of a report on what lies the government claims [More]