Biden defiant over Northern Ireland trip after 'severe' terrorism alert: 'Can't keep me out'

A rise in nationalist militancy in Northern Ireland prompted the U.K. government to increase the threat of a terrorist attack to “severe” this week — but President Biden said Tuesday that won’t sideline his upcoming trip.

“They can’t keep me out,” he told reporters ahead of this visit to the U.K. to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement signed April 10, 1998.

Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency has raised the threat level of a domestic terrorist attack in Northern Ireland back up to “severe” — meaning an attack is highly likely — after lowering it just last year.

President Biden visits a Wolfspeed semiconductor manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina, to kick off the Investing in America Tour on Tuesday.

President Biden visits a Wolfspeed semiconductor manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina, to kick off the Investing in America Tour on Tuesday. (Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


The move was made following several attacks on police, including one that targeted an off-duty officer while he was loading soccer balls into his car last month.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times by two gunmen after he wrapped up a coaching session during a children’s soccer practice — an attack that echoed similar instances that were all too common during the 30-year period of unrest in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.”

From the late 1960s through the late ’90s, over 300 police officers were killed during the violence that unfolded in Northern Ireland between Irish nationalist militants, who opposed British rule, and pro-U.K. unionists, the BBC reported.

More than 3,600 people were killed during the period of violence, according to Reuters reporting. 

Nationalists attack police on Springfield Road just up from Peace Wall interface gates which divide the nationalist and loyalist communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 8, 2021.

Nationalists attack police on Springfield Road just up from Peace Wall interface gates which divide the nationalist and loyalist communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 8, 2021. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)


Although violent attacks in Northern Ireland largely dropped following the Good Friday Agreement, nationalist dissidence did not diminish entirely and the U.K. government had kept the threat level regarding a terrorist attack at the “severe” ranking for 12 years before dropping it in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab called the need to revert the threat level to the highest ranking “disappointing,” but pointed out that republican attacks have still been on the decline since peaking in 2009 and 2010, the BBC reported.

The New IRA, a dissident group that broke away from the political opposition party known as Sinn Féin following the brokered 1998 deal, sees small support in Northern Ireland as the main political parties continue to oppose their violent tactics.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said in a written statement to members of Parliament that “the public should remain vigilant, but not be alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).”

Nationalists attack police on Springfield Road just up from Peace Wall interface gates which divide the nationalist and loyalist communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 8, 2021.

Nationalists attack police on Springfield Road just up from Peace Wall interface gates which divide the nationalist and loyalist communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 8, 2021. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)


He noted that police officers remain the top target of the republican dissidents, not the public. 

“You should be worried for your police service,” Heaton-Harris added, according to the BBC. “I wouldn’t encourage people to be hugely concerned about their own safety broader than that.”


WrestleMania 39: What to know about WWE's premier event

WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of professional wrestling, and this weekend’s event will feature some epic matchups which are sure to put on a show at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

WrestleMania 39 will take place on two nights — Saturday and Sunday — with professional wrestling’s biggest and brightest superstars going toe-to-toe over the course of the nights. It’s the first time WrestleMania will be held in Inglewood and the fourth time it will be held in the Los Angeles area.


WrestleMania 21 took place at Staples Center, and WrestleMania 2 and WrestleMania VII took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. SoFi Stadium was the original host for WrestleMania 37 until it was relocated due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Charlotte Flair enters the arena during the Smackdown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Apr 2, 2022.

Charlotte Flair enters the arena during the Smackdown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Apr 2, 2022. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

The Miz is the host for WrestleMania 39. In a previous episode of “Monday Night Raw,” he helped broker the confrontation between Seth Rollins and Logan Paul, which set up a match for them on “The Grandest Stage of Them All.”

On Thursday, WWE set the card for Nights 1 and 2.

Here’s how the matchups go.


Saturday Night

John Cena celebrates his win during Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans on April 6, 2014.

John Cena celebrates his win during Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans on April 6, 2014. (Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for WWE, File)

  • Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. The Viking Raiders in the WrestleMania Showcase Match
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio in a singles match
  • Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul in a singles match
  • Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Damage CTRL in a 6-woman tag match
  • The Usos vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens in a tag-team match for the Undisputed WWE Tag-Team Championship
  • Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
  • John Cena vs. Austin Theory for the United States Championship

Sunday Night

Cody Rhodes, left, and Roman Reigns meet in the center of the ring during an installment of WWE Smackdown in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2023.

Cody Rhodes, left, and Roman Reigns meet in the center of the ring during an installment of WWE Smackdown in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2023. (WWE via AP)

  • Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler vs. Sonya Devilla & Chelsea Green in the WrestleMania Showcase Match.
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Omos in a singles match
  • Edge vs. Finn Balor in a Hell in a Cell match
  • Gunther vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus in a triple-threat match for the Intercontinental Championship
  • Bianca Belair vs. Asuka in a singles match for the RAW Women’s Championship.
  • Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship Match


WrestleMania 39 starts at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT each night. The event can be seen on Peacock in the U.S. and WWE Network everywhere else.


Pakistan's political heavyweights take their street battles to the courts — as a weary nation looks on

Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan’s leaders and the man who wants to unseat them are engaged in high stakes political brinkmanship that is taking a toll on the collective psyche of the nation’s people – and many are exhausted.

As their politicians argue, citizens struggle with soaring inflation against an uptick in militant attacks. In major cities, residents regularly navigate police roadblocks for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns. And more than a dozen people have been killed in food lines while waiting to receive subsidized bags of flour, in a recent string of deadly crushes at food distribution centers.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is attempting to unlock billions of dollars in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund, a process delayed since last November – but some people aren’t prepared to wait.

Government statistics show a surge in the number of citizens leaving Pakistan – up almost threefold in 2022 compared to previous years.

Zainab Abidi, who works in tech, left Pakistan for Dubai last August and says her “main worry” is for her family, who she “really hopes can get out.”

Others, like Fauzia Rashif, a cleaner in Islamabad, don’t have the option to leave.

“I don’t have a passport, I’ve never left the country. These days the biggest concern is the constant expenses. I worry about my children but there really isn’t anywhere to go,” she said.

Experts say the pessimism about the Pakistan’s stability in the months ahead is not misplaced, as the country’s political heavyweights tussle for power.

Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, told CNN the “prolonged and intense nature” of the confrontation between Pakistan’s government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is “unprecedented.”

She said the only way forward is for “all sides to step aside and call for a ceasefire through interlocutors to agree on a consensus for simultaneous provincial and national elections.”

That solution, however, is not something that can easily be achieved as both sides fight in the street – and in court.

A supporter of Imran Khan poses with a slingshot as he and other supporters gather outside the former prime minister's home in Lahore, on March 16, 2023.

The current wave of chaos can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence on grounds of mismanaging the economy.

In response, Khan rallied his supporters in street protests, accusing the current government of colluding with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.

Khan survived an assassination attempt last November during one of his rallies and has since been beset with legal troubles spearheaded by Sharif’s government. As of March 21, Khan was facing six charges, while 84 have been registered against other PTI workers, according to the central police office in Lahore. However, Khan’s party claims that 127 cases have been lodged against him alone.

Earlier this month, attempts to arrest Khan from his residence in Lahore led to violent clashes with the police and Khan’s supporters camped outside. Khan told CNN the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” a claim rejected by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.

Days later, more clashes erupted when police arrived with bulldozers to clear the supporters from Khan’s home, and again outside Islamabad High Court as the former leader finally complied with an order to attend court.

Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the police operation intended to “clear no-go areas” and “arrest miscreants hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and urged all sides to show restraint.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif gives a news conference in February, 2023.

General elections are due to be held this October, but Khan has been pushing for elections months earlier. However, it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to contest the vote due to the push by the government to disqualify him.

Disqualification will mean that Khan can’t hold any parliamentary position, become involved in election campaigns, or lead his party.

Khan has already been disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts sent to him while in office – an offense under the country’s constitution – but it will take the courts to cement the disqualification into law. A court date is still to be set for that hearing.

Yasser Kureshi, author of the book “Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power in Pakistan,” says Khan’s “ability to mobilize support” will “help raise the costs of any attempt to disqualify him.”

However, he said if Pakistan’s powerful military – led by government-appointed former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, who Khan once fired – is determined to expel the former leader, it could pressure the judiciary to rule him out, no matter how much it inflames Khan’s supporters.

Pakistan army Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir attends a ceremony in Islamabad, on  November 1, 2022.

“If the military leadership is united against Khan and committed to disqualifying and purging him, the pressure from the military may compel enough judges to relent and disqualify Khan, should that be the consensus within the military top brass,” said Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Qaiser Imam, president of the Islamabad Bar Association, disagreed with this statement. “Political parties, to save their politics, link themselves with certain narratives or perceptions which generally are never found correct,” he told CNN.

The Pakistan Armed Forces has often been blamed for meddling in the democratic process to maintain its authority, but in a statement last November outgoing army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said a decision had been made in February that the military would not interfere in politics.

The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with purported attempts on his life.

Some say the government’s recent actions have added to perceptions that it’s trying to stack the legal cards against Khan.

This week, the government introduced a bill to limit the power of the Chief Justice, who had agreed to hear a claim by the PTI against a move to delay an important by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, and one considered a marker for the party most likely to win national leadership.

It had been due to be held on April 30, but Pakistan’s Election Commission pushed it to October 8, citing security concerns.

In a briefing to international media last Friday, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the security and economic situation had deteriorated in the past two months, and it was more cost effective to hold the vote at the same time as the general election.

The decision was immediately condemned by Khan as an act that “violated the constitution.”

Lodhi, the former ambassador, has criticized the delay, tweeting that a security threat had been “invoked to justify whatever is politically expedient.”

The PTI took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it’s still being heard.

Some have accused Khan of also trying to manipulate the court system in his favor.

Kureshi said the judiciary is fragmented, allowing Khan to “venue-shop” – taking charges against him from one judge to seek a more sympathetic hearing with another.

“At this time it seems that even the Supreme Court itself is split on how to deal with Imran Khan, which helps him maneuver within this fragmented institutional landscape,” Kureshi said.

Supporters of Imran Khan chant slogans as they protest in Lahore,  Pakistan, March 14.

The increasing acrimony at the highest level of politics shows no sign of ending – and in fact could prolong the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering people.

Khan is adamant the current government wants him dead without offering much tangible evidence. And in comments made to local media on Sunday, Sanaullah said the government once viewed Khan as a political opponent but now sees him as the “enemy.”

“(Khan) has in a straightforward way brought this country’s politics to a point where either only one can exist, either him or us. If we feel our existence is being negated, then we will go to whatever lengths needed and, in that situation, we will not see what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right and what is wrong,” he added.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said the comments were “offensive” and threatened to take legal action. “The statement … goes against all norms of civilized world,” he said.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the director the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, says Khan’s popularity gave him “the power to cripple the country,” should he push supporters to show their anger in the street.

However, Mehboob said Khan’s repeated attempts to call for an early election could create even more instability by provoking the government to impose article 232 of the constitution.

That would place the country under a state of emergency, delaying elections for a year.

And that would not be welcomed by a weary public already tired of living in uncertain times.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the former army chief.


Indiana county issues State of Emergency after tornado

A county in Indiana has issued a State of Emergency after the area was impacted by a tornado, according to officials.

The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office announced the State of Emergency in a Facebook post.

“Sullivan County officials have declared a State of Emergency for the areas affected by the tornado,” Sheriff Jason Bobbitt wrote. “Nonessential people are hereby ordered to stay clear of the damaged areas.”


Two Indiana men were sentenced to 220 years each in prison for their roles in a 2020 quadruple homicide.

Two Indiana men were sentenced to 220 years each in prison for their roles in a 2020 quadruple homicide.


“This declaration is in place to allow emergency responders and utility workers to do their jobs safely. There are many powerlines down, that should be considered live. We also have multiple gas leaks,” the post continued.


The sheriff added that the area is still dangerous and that those observing the storm damage out of curiosity will be arrested. 

Earlier, the sheriff’s office said an emergency shelter was established that includes food and water.


Inside the long and winding road to Trump's historic indictment


The New York grand jury hearing the case against Donald Trump was set to break for several weeks. The former president’s lawyers believed on Wednesday afternoon they had at least a small reprieve from a possible indictment. Trump praised the perceived delay.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had other plans.

Thursday afternoon, Bragg asked the grand jury to return an historic indictment against Trump, the first time that a current or former US president has been indicted. The surprise move was the final twist in an investigation that’s taken a long and winding road to the history-making charges that were returned this week.

An indictment had been anticipated early last week – including by Trump himself, who promoted a theory he would be “arrested” – as law enforcement agencies prepared for the logistics of arraigning a former president. But after the testimony of Robert Costello – a lawyer who appeared on Trump’s behalf seeking to undercut the credibility of Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen – Bragg appeared to hit the pause button.

Costello’s testimony caused the district attorney’s office to reassess whether Costello should be the last witness the grand jury heard before prosecutors asked them to vote on an indictment, multiple sources told CNN.

So they waited. The next day the grand jury was scheduled to meet, jurors were told not to come in. Bragg and his top prosecutors huddled the rest of the week and over the weekend to determine a strategy that would effectively counter Costello’s testimony in the grand jury.

They called two additional witnesses. David Pecker, the former head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, appeared on Monday. The other witness, who has still not been identified, testified on Thursday for 35 minutes in front of the grand jury – just before prosecutors asked them to vote on the indictment of more than 30 counts, the sources said.

Trump and his attorneys, thinking Bragg might be reconsidering a potential indictment, were all caught off-guard, sources said. Some of Trump’s advisers had even left Palm Beach on Wednesday following news reports that the grand jury was taking a break, the sources added.

After the indictment, Trump ate dinner with his wife, Melania, Thursday evening and smiled while he greeted guests at his Mar-a-Lago club, according to a source familiar with the event.

The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Trump has been ongoing for years, dating back to Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance. Its focus shifted by mid-2020 to the accuracy of the Trump Org.’s financial statements. At the time, prosecutors debated legal theories around the hush money payments and thought they were a long shot. At several points, the wide-ranging investigation seemed to have been winding down – to the point that prosecutors resigned in protest last year. One even wrote a book critical of Bragg for not pursuing charges against Trump released just last month.

The specific charges against Trump still remain under seal and are expected to be unveiled Tuesday when Trump is set to be arraigned.

There are questions swirling even among Trump critics over whether the Manhattan district attorney’s case is the strongest against the former president amid additional investigations in Washington, DC, and Georgia over both his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents at his Florida resort.

Trump could still face charges in those probes, too, which are separate from the New York indictment.

But it’s the Manhattan indictment, dating back to a payment made before the 2016 presidential election, that now sees Trump facing down criminal charges for the first time as he runs again for the White House in 2024.

It was just weeks before the 2016 election when Cohen, Trump’s then-lawyer, paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep silent about an alleged affair with Trump. (Trump has denied the affair.) Cohen was later reimbursed $420,000 by the Trump Organization to cover the original payment and tax liabilities and to reward him with a bonus.

That payment and reimbursement are keys at issue in the investigation.

Cohen also helped arrange a $150,000 payment from the publisher of the National Enquirer to Karen McDougal to kill her story claiming a 10-month affair with Trump. Trump also denies an affair with McDougal. During the grand jury proceedings, the district attorney’s office has asked questions about the “catch and kill” deal with McDougal.

When Cohen was charged by federal prosecutors in New York in 2018 and pleaded guilty, he said he was acting at the direction of Trump when he made the payment.

At the time, federal prosecutors had determined they could not seek to indict Trump in the scheme because of US Justice Department regulations against charging a sitting president. In 2021, after Trump left the White House, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York decided not to pursue a case against Trump, according to a recent book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But then-Manhattan District Attorney Vance’s team had already picked up the investigation into the hush money payments and begun looking at potential state law violations. By summer 2019, they sent subpoenas to the Trump Org., other witnesses, and met with Cohen, who was serving a three-year prison sentence.

Vance’s investigation broadened to the Trump Org.’s finances. New York prosecutors went to the Supreme Court twice to enforce a subpoena for Trump’s tax records from his long-time accounting firm Mazars USA. The Trump Org. and its long-time chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg were indicted on tax fraud and other charges in June 2021 for allegedly running an off-the-books compensation scheme for more than a decade.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to the charges last year and is currently serving a five-month sentence at Rikers Island. Prosecutors had hoped to flip Weisselberg to cooperate against Trump, but he would not tie Trump to any wrongdoing.

Disagreements about the pace of the investigation had caused at least three career prosecutors to move off the investigation. They were concerned that the investigation was moving too quickly, without clear evidence to support possible charges, CNN and others reported last year.

Vance authorized the attorneys on the team to present evidence to the grand jury near the end of 2021, but he did not seek an indictment. Those close to Vance say he wanted to leave the decision to Bragg, the newly elected district attorney.

Bragg, a Democrat, took office in January 2022. Less than two months into his tenure, two top prosecutors who had worked on the Trump case under Vance abruptly resigned amid a disagreement in the office over the strength of the case against Trump.

On February 22, 2022, Bragg informed the prosecution team that he was not prepared to authorize charges against Trump, CNN reported. The prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, resigned the next day.

In his resignation letter, Pomerantz said he believed Trump was guilty of numerous felonies and said that Bragg’s decision to not move forward with an indictment at the time was “wrong” and a “grave failure of justice.”

“I and others believe that your decision not to authorize prosecution now will doom any future prospects that Mr. Trump will be prosecuted for the criminal conduct we have been investigating,” Pomerantz wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by CNN.

At that point, the investigation was focused on Trump’s financial statements and whether he knowingly misled lenders, insurers, and others by providing them false or misleading information about the value of his properties.

Prosecutors were building a wide-ranging falsified business records case to include years of financial statements and the hush money payments, people with direct knowledge of the investigation told CNN. But at the time, those prosecutors believed there was a good chance a felony charge related to the hush money payment would be dismissed by a judge because it was a novel legal theory.

Dunne and Pomerantz pushed to seek an indictment of Trump tied to the sweeping falsified business records case, but others, including some career prosecutors, were skeptical that they could win a conviction at trial, in part because of the difficulty in proving Trump’s criminal intent.

Despite the resignations of the prosecutors on the Trump case, Bragg’s office reiterated at the time that the investigation was ongoing.

“Investigations are not linear so we are following the leads in front of us. That’s what we’re doing,” Bragg told CNN in April 2022. “The investigation is very much ongoing.”

At the same time that Bragg’s criminal investigation into Trump lingered last year, another prosecution against the Trump Org. moved forward. In December, two Trump Org. entities were convicted at trial on 17 counts and were ordered to pay $1.6 million, the maximum penalty, the following month.

Trump was not personally charged in that case. But it appeared to embolden Bragg’s team to sharpen their focus back to Trump and the hush money payment.

Cohen was brought back in to meet with Manhattan prosecutors. Cohen had previously met with prosecutors in the district attorney’s office 13 times over the course of the investigation. But the January meeting was the first in more than a year – and a clear sign of the direction prosecutors were taking.

As investigators inched closer to a charging decision, Bragg was faced with more public pressure to indict Trump: Pomerantz, the prosecutor who had resigned a year prior, released a book about the investigation that argued Trump should be charged and criticized Bragg for failing to do so.

“Every single member of the prosecution team thought that his guilt was established,” Pomerantz said in a February interview on “CNN This Morning.”

Asked about Bragg’s hesitance, Pomerantz said: “I can’t speak in detail about what went through his mind. I can surmise from what happened at the time and statements that he’s made since that he had misgivings about the strength of the case.”

Bragg responded in a statement saying that more work was needed on the case. “Mr. Pomerantz’s plane wasn’t ready for takeoff,” Bragg said.

Prosecutors continued bringing in witnesses, including Pecker, the former head of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer. In February, Trump Org. controller Jeffrey McConney testified before the grand jury. Members of Trump’s 2016 campaign, including Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks, also appeared. In March, Daniels met with prosecutors, her attorney said.

And Cohen, after his numerous meetings with prosecutors, finally testified before the grand jury in March.

The second week of March, prosecutors gave the clearest sign to date that the investigation was nearing its conclusion – they invited Trump to appear before the grand jury.

Potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges.

Behind the scenes, Trump attorney Susan Necheles told CNN she met with New York prosecutors to argue why Trump shouldn’t be indicted and that prosecutors didn’t articulate the specific charges they are considering.

Trump, meanwhile, took to his social media to predict his impending indictment. In a post attacking Bragg on March 18, Trump said the “leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”

“Protest, take our nation back,” Trump added, echoing the calls he made while he tried to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump’s prediction would turn out to be premature.

Trump’s call for protests after a potential indictment led to meetings between senior staff members from the district attorney’s office, the New York Police Department and the New York State Court Officers – who provide security at the criminal court building in lower Manhattan.

Trump’s lawyers also made a last-ditch effort to fend off an indictment. At the behest of Trump’s team, Costello, who advised Cohen in 2018, provided emails and testified to the grand jury on Monday, March 20, alleging that Cohen had said in 2018 that he had decided on his own to make the payment to Daniels.

Costello’s testimony appeared to delay a possible indictment – for a brief time at least.

During the void, Trump continued to launch verbal insults against Bragg, calling him a “degenerate psychopath.” And four Republican chairmen of the most powerful House committees wrote to Bragg asking him to testify, which Bragg’s office said was unprecedented interference in a local investigation. An envelope containing a suspicious white powder and a death threat to Bragg was to delivered to the building where the grand jury meets – the powder was deemed nonhazardous.

The grand jury would not meet again until Monday, March 27, when Pecker was ushered back to the grand jury in a government vehicle with tinted windows in a failed effort to evade detection by the media camped outside of the building where the grand jury meets.

Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump’s who had a history of orchestrating so-called “catch and kill” deals while at the National Enquirer, was involved with the Daniels’ deal from the beginning.

Two days after Pecker’s testimony, there were multiple reports that the grand jury was going into a pre-planned break in April. The grand jury was set to meet Thursday but it was not expected to hear the Trump case.

Instead, the grand jury heard from one last witness in the Trump case on Thursday, whose identity is still unknown. And then the grand jury shook up the American political system by voting to indict a former president and 2024 candidate for the White House.


These birds carry poison in their feathers

Research in the jungle of New Guinea reveals two species of birds that carry a powerful neurotoxin.

“These birds contain a neurotoxin that they can both tolerate and store in their feathers,” says Knud Jønsson of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, who worked with Kasun Bodawatta of the University of Copenhagan.

The bird species have each developed the ability to consume toxic food and turn that into a poison of their own.

The species in question are the regent whistler (Pachycephala schlegelii), a species that belongs to a family of birds with a wide distribution and easily recognizable song well known across the Indo-Pacific region, and the rufous-naped bellbird (Aleadryas rufinucha).

“We were really surprised to find these birds to be poisonous as no new poisonous bird species has been discovered in over two decades. Particularly, because these two bird species are so common in this part of the world,” says Jønsson. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Ecology.

orange bird with black wings and black crest, head, and neck
One of the most poisonous birds known, the hooded pitohui, also lives in New Guineas jungle. (Credit: Knud Jønsson/U. Copenhagen)

Poison frogs and poison birds

Most people are familiar with South and Central America’s iconic poison dart frogs—especially the golden poison frog. These small, brightly colored amphibians can kill a human at the slightest touch. The discovery of the same type of toxin in birds’ skin and feathers demonstrates that the frog toxin is more widespread than once believed.

“It’s a bit like cutting onions—but with a nerve agent, I guess.”

The poison is called Batrachotoxin. It’s an incredibly potent neurotoxin that, in higher concentrations leads to muscle cramps and cardiac arrest nearly immediately after contact.

“The bird’s toxin is the same type as that found in frogs, which is a neurotoxin that, by forcing sodium channels in skeletal muscle tissue to remain open, can cause violent convulsions and ultimately death,” explains Bodawatta.

South America’s poison dart frogs use their toxin to protect them from predators. Though the level of toxicity of the New Guinean birds is less lethal, it may still serve a defensive purpose, but the adaptive significance for the birds is yet uncertain.

“Knud thought I was sad and having a rough time on the trip when they found me with a runny nose and tears in my eyes. In fact, I was just sitting there taking feather samples from a Pitohui, one of the most poisonous birds on the planet. Removing birds from the net isn’t bad, but when samples need to be taken in a confined environment, you can feel something in your eyes and nose. It’s a bit like cutting onions—but with a nerve agent, I guess,” laughs Bodawatta.

“The locals aren’t fond of spicy food and steer clear of these birds, because, according to them, their meat burns in the mouth like chili. In fact, that’s how researchers first became aware of them. And the toxin can be felt when holding onto one of them. It feels kind of unpleasant and hanging on to one for long isn’t an appealing option. This could indicate that the poison serves them as a deterrence of those who would want to eat them to some degree,” explains Jønsson.

How do birds live with the poison?

There is a distinction in biology between the two ways that animals deploy poisons. There are poisonous animals that produce toxins in their bodies and others that absorb toxins from their surroundings. Like the frogs, the birds belong to the latter category. Both are believed to acquire toxins from what they eat. Beetles containing the toxin have been found in the stomachs of some of the birds. But the source of the toxin itself has yet to be determined.

What makes it possible for these birds to have a toxin in their bodies without themselves being harmed? The researchers studied this with inspiration from poison dart frogs, whose genetic mutations prevent the toxin from keeping their sodium channels open, and thereby preventing cramps.

“So, it was natural to investigate whether the birds had mutations in the same genes. Interestingly enough, the answer is yes and no. The birds have mutations in the area that regulates sodium channels, which we expect gives them this ability to tolerate the toxin, but not in the exact same places as the frogs,” says Bodawatta.

He adds: “Finding these mutations that can reduce the binding affinity of Batrathotoxin in poisonous birds in similar places as in poison dart frogs, is quite cool. And it showed that in order to adapt to this Batrachotoxin lifestyle, you need some sort of adaptation in these sodium channels”.

Therefore, these studies of the birds Multiple mutations in the Nav1.4 sodium channel of New Guinean toxic birds provide autoresistance to deadly batrachotoxin establish that while their neurotoxin is similar to that of the South American poison dart frogs, the birds developed their resistance and ability to carry it in the bodies independently of the frogs. This is an example of what biologists refer to as convergent evolution.

Connections to shellfish poisoning?

This basic research will primarily contribute to a better understanding of New Guinea’s birds and how different animal species not only acquire a resistance to toxins but use them as a defense mechanism.

Other aspects of the research have the potential to help ordinary people. The toxin conquered by the birds over time is closely related to other toxins, such as the one responsible for shellfish poisoning.

“Obviously, we are in no position to claim that this research has uncovered the holy grail of shellfish poisoning or similar poisonings, but as far as basic research, it is a small piece of a puzzle that can help explain how these toxins work in cells and in the body. And, how the bodies of certain animals have evolved to tolerate them,” says Jønsson

Source: University of Copenhagen


AFL star Jamarra Ugle-Hagan recreates iconic anti-racism gesture after enduring racist taunts in prior match


Australian Football League (AFL) star Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrated a goal by taking a stand against racism in his first game since a fan hurled racist remarks at him during a match on March 25.

The 20-year-old, who plays for the Western Bulldogs, lifted his shirt and pointed to his skin after kicking his first goal against the Brisbane Lions on Thursday.

It mirrored fellow Indigenous player Nicky Winmar’s gesture in 1993, which is seen as a landmark moment in AFL’s fight against racism.

In 1995, after Winmar’s iconic image generated debate, the league introduced an education campaign, ‘Racism: The Game is Up,’ and told its umpires to start reporting racist abuse, according to the National Museum of Australia.

A fan shouted a racist remark at Ugle-Hagan during a game against St Kilda last Saturday.

Both teams condemned the incident and said they were working with the AFL Integrity Department to identify the perpetrators.

On Thursday, Ugle-Hagan produced one the best performances of his career, finishing the win against the Brisbane Lions with five goals.

He was mobbed by his teammates in celebration at full-time.

“I did want to make a stance, I wanted to show my presence,” an emotional Ugle-Hagan said in his on-field interview after Thursday’s match.

“Obviously, what happened last weekend was a pretty hard time.

“So just going out there and just proving the point that I’m just a boy trying to play some football, same as the other Indigenous boys.”

Nicky Winmar poses with his statue in Perth, Australia, in 2019.

It’s been almost three decades since Winmar lifted his jersey and pointed to his skin after enduring racist abuse from supporters of the opposing team during a match on April 17, 1993.

In a statement Friday, Winmar said he was “proud” of Ugle-Hagan for making a stand and that it was time for “new generations to reinforce the stance I made.”

“I’m still here, still involved with the issue, but it’s been 30 years now, it’s like a big relay race, time to pass on the baton,” Winmar said.

“Things are getting better, with increased awareness, and kids are getting educated in schools now about racism in sport and in society, which is great.

“There’s still a few who can’t control their negative attitudes, all we can do is keep supporting each other, and keep calling it out.”

The AFL released a statement Sunday in support of Ugle-Hagan and condemned “the racial vilification of anyone in the community in football.”

“Racism is inexcusable and is never OK,” it added.