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Security officials to respond to failures at the Capitol on Jan. 6

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Security officials to respond to failures at the Capitol on Jan. 6

 

Congress will be hearing from the former U.S. On Jan. 6, the day a violent mob laid siege to the building and disrupted the presidential electoral count, Capitol security officials first addressed the major law enforcement failures.

Three out of the four set to testify Tuesday before two Senate panels, including the former head of the Capitol Police, resigned under pressure shortly after the deadly assault.

Much remains unclear about what happened before and after the attack, and it is expected that lawmakers would question the former officials vigorously about what went wrong. How much did law enforcement authorities, many of whom were public, know about preparations for violence that day? How have the agencies exchanged their data with each other? And how could the Capitol Police have been so ill-prepared for a violent rebellion that, in plain sight, was orchestrated online?

On the outside of the Capitol, the rioters quickly smashed through security barriers, engaged in hand-to-hand battles with police officers, wounding hundreds of them, and crashed through several windows and doors, sending lawmakers running from the chambers of the House and Senate, and interrupting the 2020 presidential election certification. As a result of the shooting, five people died, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman shot by police as she tried to break through the House chamber doors with lawmakers still inside.

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving will talk publicly at the hearing, which is part of a joint inquiry by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and the Senate Rules Committee, for the first time since their resignations. They will be accompanied by former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and Robert Contee, the Metropolitan Police Department’s acting chief of police, who, after the rioting began, sent additional officers to the scene.

The hearing is supposed to be the first of many analyses of what happened that day, occurring almost seven weeks after the assault and more than a week after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of triggering the rebellion by urging his supporters to “fight like hell” to undo his election defeat. The Capitol is now surrounded by thousands of National Guard troops on a large perimeter, cutting off streets and sidewalks that are typically full of vehicles, pedestrians and visitors.

A bipartisan, impartial commission to investigate the mistakes is also being considered by Congress, and numerous Congressional panels have said they would look into various aspects of the siege. More than 230 individuals who were suspected of being involved in the attack were arrested by federal law enforcement, and President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, said in his confirmation hearing Monday that investigating the riots would be a top priority.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Congress needs to know, quickly, how failed security plans and delays in the response led to “a mad, angry mob invading this temple of our democracy,” Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., said senators would concentrate in particular on the timing of the deployment of the National Guard, which finally arrived to assist the exhausted police, how security agencies exchanged information prior to the attack, and if the Capitol Police Board’s command structure, which includes the armed sergeants of the House and Senate, led to the failures. She said laws could exist to resolve any inadequacies.

Here we are on a fast track simply because decisions about the Capitol have to be made,” Klobuchar said.”

Klobuchar said the hearing on Tuesday would be the first of at least two public reviews of what went wrong that day, as the Senate committees are conducting a joint security failure inquiry. The reaction of the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI will be investigated at a second hearing, scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

Although there is general consensus that security measures on that day were ineffective, officials have pointed to each other’s responsibility for the causes and questioned the accounts of each other. It soon became apparent that although the Capitol Police had prepared for demonstrations, they were greatly unprepared for a violent rebellion, and many were battered as they tried in vain to prevent rioters from entering the building. The day after the riot, Sund said that his force “had a robust plan established to address expected First Amendment activities.”

Interim Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who briefly replaced Sund, apologised last month for failing to plan, amid threats that Congress would be threatened by white nationalists and far-right groups. She also reported, however, that Sund had demanded that the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the department, declare a state of emergency in advance and allow him to request assistance from the National Guard, but the board refused. The Department of Defense has said it asked the Capitol Police if the Guard wanted it, but the request was refused.

Pittman’s assertion was refuted by a third member of the Capitol Police Board hours after her testimony was released. J. Brett Blanton, who serves as the Capitol’s architect, said Sund had not asked him for support and that there was “no record of an emergency declaration request.”

By interrogating the witnesses together on Tuesday, lawmakers expect to settle some of those contradictions. Klobuchar said she is glad that they are all willingly attending and hopes that a “constructive” tone will be offered to the hearing.

“What happened was a horror, all of us know that,” she said. “But if we’re going to have solutions and move forward with a safer Capitol, we need to identify what went wrong, what the problems were, and the answers we’re going to get are part of that solution.”

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Gangs strangle Haiti’s capital as deaths, kidnappings soar

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Gangs strangle Haiti’s capital as deaths, kidnappings soar

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It was about 6 a.m. when Venique Moïse flung open the door of her house and saw dozens of people running — their children in one hand and scant belongings in the other — as gunfire intensified.

Minutes later, she joined the crowd with her own three kids and fled as fires burned nearby, collapsing homes. Over the coming hours and days, the bodies of nearly 200 men, women and children — shot, burned or mutilated with machetes by warring gangs — were found in that part of Haiti’s capital.

“That Sunday, when the war started, I felt that I was going to die,” Moïse said.

Gangs are fighting each other and seizing territory in the capital of Port-au-Prince with a new intensity and brutality. The violence has horrified many who feel the country is swiftly unraveling as it tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the United Nations prepares to debate the future of its longtime presence in Haiti.

Experts say the scale and duration of gang clashes, the power criminals wield and the amount of territory they control has reached levels not seen before.

Gangs have forced schools, businesses and hospitals to close as they raid new neighborhoods, seize control of the main roads connecting the capital to the rest of the country and kidnap victims daily, including eight Turkish citizens still held captive, authorities say.

Gangs also are recruiting more children than before, arming them with heavy weapons and forming temporary alliances with other gangs in attempts to take over more territory for economic and political gain ahead of the country’s general elections, said Jaime Vigil Recinos, the United Nations’ police commissioner in Haiti.

“It’s astonishing,” he told The Associated Press, noting that gang clashes are becoming protracted, ruthless affairs. “We are talking about something that Haiti hasn’t experienced before.”

At least 92 civilians and 96 suspected gang members were killed between April 24 and May 16, with another 113 injured, 12 missing and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The office warned that the actual number of people killed “may be much higher.”

Gangs also gang-raped children as young as 10 and set fire to at least a dozen homes, forcing some 9,000 people to flee and seek temporary shelter in churches, public parks and shuttered schools, U.N. officials said.

Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network said some victims were decapitated while others were thrown into wells and latrines. Gangs posted pictures of the gruesome scenes on social media to further terrorize people. The network said that most women and girls were raped before being killed.

“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti,” Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a May 17 statement.

Bruno Maes, UNICEF’s representative in Haiti, told the AP that one growing concern is the lack of access to basic things like water, food and medicine because people remain trapped in certain areas while gangs continue to fight, noting that malnutrition is on the rise, affecting 1 in 5 children in the Cité Soleil neighborhood alone.

“We are really seeing a strangulation of Port-au-Prince,” he said, adding that UNICEF has been forced to use a helicopter and now a boat to try to reach those most in need.

Staff at hospitals and clinics report they’re being stretched thin, with Doctors Without Borders noting that it treated nearly 100 people for gunshot wounds from April 24 to May 7, forcing the aid group to reopen a clinic in Cité Soleil it had closed in early April because of the violence.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has remained largely quiet amid the escalating gang violence, while Frantz Elbé, Haiti’s new police chief, said dozens of gang members have been arrested and another 94 killed in clashes with police since he took over the department six months ago. Nearly 5,000 suspects have been accused of crimes including murder and kidnapping, Elbé said.

“I am going to continue to track down the criminals,” he pledged in a May 9 news conference, adding that Haiti’s understaffed and under-resourced police department of roughly 11,000 officers for a country of more than 11 million people was receiving training and equipment from the international community.

At least 48 killings were reported in the neighborhood of Butte Boyer, which Edna Noël Marie fled with her husband and three children when gunfire erupted in late April.

The 44-year-old is sleeping on the concrete floor of a crowded shelter with no mattresses in increasingly unhygienic conditions while her children stay at a friend’s home.

“It’s not big enough to shelter all of us,” she explained, adding that she fears gangs will recruit her two sons and rape her daughter. “These people have no remorse, and society doesn’t really care. … There is no civil protection. There are no authorities. Police are here today, and they’re going to be gone tomorrow.”

About 1,700 schools have shuttered amid the spike in gang violence, leaving more than half a million children without an education, with the directors of some schools unable to keep paying gangs to ensure students’ safety, the U.N. said. Efforts are underway to set up an FM radio station dedicated to broadcasting classes, Maes said.

“It’s very saddening for us that children who are willing to learn and teachers willing to teach cannot do so because they feel unsafe,” he said.

The ongoing violence and kidnappings have prompted hundreds of Haitians to flee their country, often a deadly move. At least 11 Haitians died and 36 others were rescued when their human smuggling boat overturned near Puerto Rico this month. Dozens of others have died at sea in recent months.

Another concern is the lack of housing not only for the estimated 9,000 families recently forced to flee their homes, but also for the estimated 20,000 others displaced last year who are still living in overcrowded, dirty government shelters. At the same time, the country is struggling to help roughly 20,000 Haitians the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has deported in recent months amid sharp criticism.

As police try to contain the gang violence, AP journalists visited the Butte Boyer neighborhood, where the smell of charred homes and decaying bodies spread for several blocks. Dogs gnawed on victims’ remains.

Several walls and gates were scrawled with “400 Mawozo,” a testament to the presence of a gang believed to have kidnapped the Turkish citizens in early May and 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group last year, demanding $1 million in ransom and holding most for two months.

Nailed to a wooden post, a picture of a man killed during the recent gang violence flapped in the wind. The sign underneath read, “Thanks to the government of my country.”

It was once a quiet neighborhood that Lucitha Gason, 48, knows she won’t return to again. She was getting ready for church when the explosion of gunfire in late April forced her to abandon her home. She’s been staying at a shuttered school, but the owner recently demanded that she and dozens of other Haitians find another place to sleep.

Gason is now trying to figure out where to go since she can’t afford to leave the country.

“We can’t count on the government. We can’t count on organizations. They’re all making promises that aren’t coming through,” she said. “Here in Haiti, you really have to depend on yourself and what you can do for yourself. There’s no such thing as what the country can do for you.”

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In anticipation of 1,000, here’s a look at the most memorable home runs at Target Field

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In anticipation of 1,000, here’s a look at the most memorable home runs at Target Field

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s been walk-offs and inside-the-parkers. There have been balls that have just barely cleared the wall, and ones that have traveled nearly 500 feet.

Since Target Field opened, the Twins have hit 999 home runs at the park, starting with Jason Kubel on Opening Day 2010. No one has hit more there than Brian Dozier (81), though Miguel Sanó is not far behind and could eclipse that record.

When the Twins return home to take on the Detroit Tigers this week, they’re likely to hit the 1,000 milestone. Before they do, here’s a look back at 10 of the most memorable longballs since the stadium opened.

April 12, 2010: Jason Kubel

Former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel holds an important distinction: His Opening Day home run, which he deposited into the seats in right field, was the first in Target Field’s history.

The Twins, of course, wanted to procure the baseball, and the fan who caught it had a very specific request.

“The fan wanted a Joe Mauer autographed bat, which I always thought was odd,” longtime television announcer Dick Bremer said. “I thought if Kubel hit it, the exchange should be an autographed bat of Jason Kubel, not Joe Mauer, but I understand. I understand the fan’s standpoint absolutely.”

Aug. 17, 2010: Jim Thome

It took until mid-August for the Twins to collect their first walk-off hit at Target Field, and it was a home run from who else but future Hall of Famer Jim Thome.

Against his former team, the White Sox, and his former teammate, Matt Thornton, Thome clobbered the second pitch he saw, sending the Twins to a 7-6 win. For Bremer, that was “without question,” the most memorable home run in the ballpark’s history to him.

“It turned a loss into a win for the Twins and did just the opposite for the White Sox,” Bremer said. “I think it turned out to be a pivot point in the whole season for both teams.”

Sept. 6, 2010: Jim Thome

Another entry from Thome came later that year when the lefty absolutely demolished a pitch for a majestic home run that he took out to right field. The ball wound up hitting off the top of the flagpole that holds the American flag on the right field concourse.

“Oh my goodness gracious,” Bremer said on the call.

Estimates had the ball traveling 480 feet, which would have been the longest home run at the ballpark at the time. It has since been eclipsed.

May 6, 2015: Eddie Rosario

Reliever Tyler Duffey, one of the longest tenured Twins, has seen his fair share of Target Field home runs.

But one of the ones at the forefront of Duffey’s mind is Eddie Rosario’s first, in which the outfielder took the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer out to left field, an opposite-field blast that eventually earned him the silent treatment from his teammates in the dugout.

“That was probably the coolest that I can think of just because like, first day, first at-bat, first pitch of his career, hits a home run,” Duffey said. “It was just so stereotypically Rosie, like just right on brand for him.”

July 10, 2015: Brian Dozier

After missing out on an all-star nomination, Dozier showed why he belonged.

The Twins entered the ninth inning trailing the Tigers 6-1. They charged all the way back, with Dozier’s three-run blast off Joakim Soria capping an improbable victory. To this day, that home run stands out as radio announcer Cory Provus’s favorite.

“The team wasn’t very good and you’re looking for bright spots,” Provus said. “Brian Dozier became one of the most feared right-handed batters in baseball that season, and I just remember that home run being significant because it was also the beginning of the end of the Tigers’ run.”

June 12, 2016: Max Kepler

How’s this for a first career home run?

Tied 4-4 with a pair of runners in scoring position and just one out, Max Kepler remembers the Red Sox bringing an extra infielder in. His plan, he said, was to just hit a sacrifice fly. He did one better, instead taking an 0-2 pitch from Matt Barnes and depositing it into center field for a walk-off.

“That was a really cool one because that was like a really big moment to homer and it kind (of was) like Kepler’s like coming out, ‘Like, alright, I’m here,’” Duffey said. “I think it was like a theater like 98. … He just whacked it.”

May 5, 2017: Joe Mauer

Barnes was also on the mound during another memorable Twins’ moment: Mauer’s first — and only — walk-off home run.

With the Twins and Red Sox tied 3-3 in the ninth, Mauer took a pitch out to the bullpen in center field, tipping his helmet to the crowd before he met a group of his exuberant teammates at the plate.

“I saved it for the right moment, right?” Mauer said shortly after hitting the blast.

Aug. 5, 2019: Miguel Sanó

Braves center fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. didn’t even bother racing back to track the baseball. He knew, as did everyone in the park, that Sanó had gotten all of it.

The two-run blast broke open a 3-3 game in the ninth inning and ignited a celebration that still sticks with many to this day.

“It was mammoth of a homer against a good team that year, which was (a) very much-needed win, and yeah just how we celebrated it and how he came in as like a gorilla, like patting the ground, that was something that’s (been) imprinted in my mind for a while,” Kepler said.

Sept. 17, 2019: Miguel Sanó

Not only did Sanó’s blast off White Sox reliever Ross Detwiler travel 496-feet, a Target Field record that stands to this day, it was also his 30th of the season.

With that, the Twins became the first team in history to have five players reach that milestone in a season. Sanó joined Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in doing so.

When he connected, Sanó dropped his bat after his follow through and Detwiler turned around, watched it travel and then put his hands on his thighs and hung his head down.

“He’s physically capable of doing things that really very few people in baseball are capable of doing,” manager Rocco Baldelli said that day.

Sept. 22, 2019: Nelson Cruz

The first home run of Nelson Cruz’s decorated career came in July 2006 in Minnesota against the Twins. The 400th came in Minnesota for the Twins.

Cruz had been sitting on No. 399, awaiting the milestone for a couple days by the time he connected with a Gabe Speier pitch and sent it into the second deck in right-center field. In addition to it being the 400th of his career, it was his 40th that season, marking the fourth time he had reached that number.

“Very special,” Cruz said that day. “It’s definitely a good one. It’s nice to do it in front of the fans. I think they deserve it.”

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MN Legislature running out of time — or is it?

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MN Legislature running out of time — or is it?

Facing a looming midnight deadline, the Minnesota Legislature sputtered on Sunday, leaving unclear whether a major series of tax breaks and long-sought spending plans — or anything of widespread significance — would get done.

Senior lawmakers’ opinions were all over the map Sunday afternoon, when asked to predict what was the most likely — or best — course of action. Finger-pointing and frustration broke out in some quarters, while guarded optimism persevered in others, and a spectrum of election-year political calculations hung in the air of the state Capitol in St. Paul.

Minnesota is one of two legislatures in the nation with control split among Republicans and Democrats, and lawmakers’ primary task was how to address a record budget surplus of more than $9 billion.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, announced a grand bargain for how it all should work, but hammering out many of the details has proven problematic.

Perhaps the biggest question: Would a bipartisan $4 billion package of major tax breaks agreed to Saturday actually get done, or would it become legislative roadkill splattered by disagreements over unrelated spending plans?

Another question: Would a separate aspect of the grand bargain — $1.5 billion in public works projects — ultimately be approved, or would it fall by the wayside as well?

By afternoon Sunday, a few things had become relatively clear:

  • Not everything generally agreed to by the state’s top leaders last week in the grand bargain could get done. There simply wasn’t enough time for several large bills — hundred of pages of legal language — to be processed by the constitutional deadline at midnight.
  • Among the most likely casualty: a health and human services spending plan that had held the prospect of a range of initiatives, from increasing pay for caregivers and funding other programs to help keep nursing homes and long-term care centers afloat to approving millions of dollars for Ramsey County to stave off a feared burst in homelessness.
  • Vast swaths of the $4 billion in spending envisioned in the grand bargain had been agreed to. However, tens or hundreds of millions in sticking points threatened to upend it all.
  • Nothing has to happen. The state is operating under a two-year, $52 billion budget approved last year, so there’s no risk of parts of the government shutting down if no additional legislation passes this year.
  • There appeared to be a growing sense that the limited appetite for a special session — a legislative overtime of sorts — was fading. Only Walz, a Democrat, can call a special session. He has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to. Even if he changed his mind, he would most likely require buy-in from leaders of the House and Senate before doing so, and Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate didn’t appear enthusiastic about the idea. It wasn’t clear where the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled House stood.

Among the issues that remained in dispute:

  • Lawmakers struggled to agree on how to spend some $450 million in public safety, which could include recruiting hiring police officers, as well as funding community-based crime prevention strategies.
  • Negotiators appeared at loggerheads over how to spend $1 billion on schools, as demands for special education and mental health needs dominated discussions.
  • A years-long disagreement on transportation funding emerged as a potentially intractable sticking point: whether all proceeds from sales taxes on auto parts should go into the state’s dedicated trust fund for state highways. Currently, half of those funds do, while the other half goes into the state’s general fund.

Here’s a summary of many of the issues lawmakers were grappling with Saturday.

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