Are Republicans about to blow the Pennsylvania Senate race?

The Senate minority leader has spent the entire 2022 election telling anyone who will listen that a) Republicans should win back the majority this fall and b) the easiest way to blow it is to nominate candidates who can’t appeal to general election voters.

That quartet were Republican nominees for Senate in 2010 and 2012. They all won primaries fueled by tea party outrage but ultimately lost general elections because they proved unable to expand their appeal beyond the GOP base.

And now, McConnell may we watching it happen all over again.

With just hours to go before the Pennsylvania primary, it’s clear that Kathy Barnette, a little known conservative, is a real threat to beat TV doctor Mehmet Oz and wealthy businessman David McCormick for the Republican nomination in a state seen as critical to the party’s majority hopes.

Barnette has not been vetted in anything close to the way Oz and McCormick have and, in truth, it may be too late to stop her momentum. In just the last few days, a series of Islamaphobic tweets from Barnette have come to light as have questions about her military service.
“It’s the job of the media to do the vetting,” Barnette told Steve Bannon on Monday. “And they’ve been derelict in their duty like they are derelict in so many other things. It’s not my job. It’s not my fault that they didn’t vet me.”

(In truth, if Barnette wins, the campaigns of Oz and McCormick will kick themselves for not seeing her as a threat early enough.)

If Barnette wins, at least one prominent Republican — not named Mitch McConnell — thinks the party will be in deep trouble in November.

“Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats,” said former President Donald Trump late last week. “She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted.”

If Barnette winds up as the nominee, you can bet you will be seeing that quote again — in TV ads.

The Point: Republicans can’t say Mitch McConnell didn’t warn them.

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US Air Force tests troubled hypersonic missile

The Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon was successfully released from a B-52H bomber off the coast of Southern California on Saturday and attained hypersonic speeds, the Air Force announced on Monday, without releasing any more details about the test itself, such as the duration of the flight or its altitude.

“This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team, for the weapon enterprise, and our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons.

The ARRW is a hypersonic weapon that uses a booster rocket to accelerate the missile to speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. A hypersonic glide vehicle then separates from the booster and glides at high speed toward its target.

The Air Force has struggled with the testing of the AGM-183A ARRW in the past, and the program suffered three flight test failures before this latest success. Last month, the Air Force said that flight test anomalies had pushed back the schedule for the weapon’s completion. The first complete test of the missile and booster rocket was delayed until sometime in the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

One day before this test, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall acknowledged the problems that the ARRW program has encountered.

“The program has not been successful in research and development so far,” Kendall told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “We want to see proof of success before we make the decision about commitment to production, so we’re going to wait and see.”

The Pentagon has placed an increased emphasis on hypersonic weapons development after lawmakers became concerned that the US was falling behind the Chinese and Russian programs. Last year, China successfully tested a hypersonic weapon that orbited the globe before hitting its target. More recently, Russia became the first nation ever to use hypersonic weapons in war when it launched its Iskander and Kinzhal missiles at Ukraine. The Pentagon said that Russia has used between 10-12 hypersonic weapons since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine.

In mid-March, the US successfully tested its Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), but kept it quiet to avoid escalating tensions with Russia as President Joe Biden was about to visit Europe.

The HAWC was launched from a B-52 bomber off the west coast in the first successful test of the Lockheed Martin system. A booster engine accelerated the missile to high speed, at which point the air-breathing scramjet engine ignited and propelled the missile at hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 and above.

The test came days after Russia says it used its own hypersonic missile during its invasion of Ukraine, claiming it targeted an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine.

Even with the increased focus on hypersonic weapons, the Air Force secretary urged a note of caution about their importance.

“What we want to look at is what’s the most cost effective mix of weapons,” Kendall told lawmakers. “There is certainly a role for hypersonics in that, and we need to invest in that and procure them in some quantities, but there’s still an open question in my mind about what’s the most cost effective mix.”

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North Carolina primary election: Major outside spending boosts Trump-backed Budd

A Budd victory would deliver the former President another key win during the busy month of May primaries — and in a state Trump carried twice during his presidential bids. But despite Trump’s early support for the congressman over former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker, which came as a surprise announcement at last year’s state GOP convention, Budd struggled to break out from the pack until the final months of the race.

Budd has had substantial help from the Club for Growth, which has backed him since his 2016 primary for the US House, when the group helped him emerge victorious from a 17-person primary. In this cycle’s Senate race, the Club’s super PAC has spent more than any other group on either side of the aisle, dropping just under $12 million in ads to attack McCrory and Walker.

All of that spending has made the North Carolina race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr one of the most expensive of the cycle — and it has worked to the benefit of Budd.

“People make a lot of the Trump endorsement, but the Club for Growth money was more significant. A Trump endorsement opens the door to Trump base voters, but it doesn’t seal the deal,” said Doug Heye, a longtime Republican operative who is from North Carolina. “The Club’s spending built up Budd’s name ID and undercut McCrory, who has struggled to develop a working message the entire campaign.”

The North Carolina Senate race is one of the few races this cycle where Trump and the Club are aligned after a notable spat in Ohio and a more recent split in Pennsylvania. Trump’s candidate prevailed over the Club-backed candidate in Ohio’s GOP Senate primary earlier this month, while the Club-backed candidate is giving the Trump-backed candidate a run for his money in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary on Tuesday.

After a slow fundraising start, Budd caught up with McCrory, who entered the North Carolina race with establishment support. Heading into the final weeks of the primary, Budd had narrowly eclipsed McCrory in total money raised, and his campaign has spent $2 million on ads compared to McCrory’s $1.69 million. A pro-McCrory super PAC, Carolina Senate Fund, has spent just over $1 million, far below the Club’s big investment.

The former governor, who lost reelection in 2016 at the same time Trump carried the state, has failed to capitalize on that aforementioned establishment support, and was unable to find an effective attack on Budd. In March, McCrory released a TV ad criticizing Budd for past votes against bringing voting against a bill to bring sanctions against Russia and accusing Budd of praising Russian President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.

“While Ukrainians bled and died,” McCrory said in a voiceover, “Congressman Budd excused their killer.” As noted in a CNN Fact Check, the ad misleadingly omits comments in which Budd sharply criticized Putin.

The Club’s super PAC responded with an ad blasting McCrory as a liberal and highlighting clips of Budd criticizing Putin.

The flap over Putin did little to change the trajectory of Budd’s slow and steady rise in private and public polls. Nor did the persistence of Walker, the former congressman seen as a rival with Budd for the most conservative votes in the primary. Walker resisted calls for him to drop out following Trump’s endorsement of his former colleague, but he has not proven to be a major drag on Budd’s consolidation of conservative support. Army veteran Marjorie Eastman has raised significantly less money but could still siphon off some votes from the leading men in the race.

The winning candidate only needs to surpass 30% of the vote to avoid a runoff election.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court, in the general election. Beasley has been the frontrunner for the nomination since two of her most formidable rivals dropped out and endorsed her.

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DHS chief Mayorkas says it’s ‘virtually impossible’ to monitor all hate online

Asked if DHS should have caught the 180-page racist screed posted online and attributed to the suspected gunman, Mayorkas said: “No, because are we monitoring every expression of hate on the internet and social media? That would be virtually impossible.”
Instead, Mayorkas argued the question is whether an individual who has been encountered by the mental health system should be able to purchase guns. State police had previously taken in the 18-year-old suspect — who allegedly shot and killed 10 people on Saturday — for a mental health evaluation following a “generalized threat” while he attended Susquehanna Valley Central High School, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said over the weekend.

“We have to equip people in communities to identify signs of mental health issues and especially if those signs are coupled with expressions of intent or interest in committing acts of violence,” Mayorkas said.

The Department of Homeland Security has participated in calls with the Justice Department and the broader law enforcement community in the wake of the Buffalo attack. “What law enforcement wants to see from us is as real-time, actionable information as we can provide with respect to the threat landscape. What do we know?” the secretary told CNN.

“We have a vantage point that a local law enforcement agency would not have. We understand the national picture,” he added. “They want us to push that information out as quickly as possible and provide as fulsome of information set as we can.”

Mayorkas told CNN earlier Monday that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, but declined to call it a domestic terrorist attack. “With respect to the tragic events of this past Saturday, it is being investigated, as the FBI articulated, as a hate crime,” Mayorkas told CNN’s Jeremy Diamond. “The term domestic terrorism is a legal term, and because the investigation is ongoing, I won’t — I won’t employ that term.”

Federal prosecutors are working to bring charges against the shooting suspect, law enforcement officials said. Those charges are expected in the coming days, and would be in addition to state charges. The suspect was charged with first-degree murder Saturday. He has pleaded not guilty.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Saturday said the Justice Department was investigating the attack as a “hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”

Title 42 remains uncertain

Mayorkas’ remarks on the Buffalo shooting Monday evening came as he traveled to the Texas-Mexico border amid uncertainty over the future of a Trump-era pandemic restriction, known as Title 42. The public health authority, which allows officials to turn migrants away at the US-Mexico border, is set to end on May 23 but an ongoing lawsuit may thwart those plans.

The department has been actively preparing for a potential surge in migrants when the authority lifts. Those plans also require coordination with partners to the south.

“It has to involve countries to the south of our border. It cannot be the United States alone at its border. It has to involve a regional solution to what is a regional challenge,” Mayorkas said.

DHS is working to strike migration agreements with “many” countries, though those arrangements might vary by country. The US has already struck agreements with Costa Rica and Panama.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, has fiercely criticized the administration over its handling of the border, launching his own operation along the state’s shared border with Mexico and busing migrants released from custody to Washington, DC. Abbott is among a slew of Republican governors who have pushed back on the administration’s immigration policies.

Asked whether DHS can collaborate with GOP governors amid the pushback, Mayorkas told CNN, “We have collaborated with state and local leaders of both parties. It is unhelpful when actions are taken outside of a collaborative environment.”

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Sri Lanka down to last day of petrol, Prime Minister tells crisis-hit nation

Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed prime minister on Thursday, said in an address to the nation the country urgently needed $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports.

“At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” he said.

“We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.”

Two shipments of petrol and two shipments of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, he added — but the country is also facing a shortage of 14 essential medicines.

Sri Lanka currently faces a budget deficit of $6.8 billion (2.4 trillion Sri Lankan rupees), or 13% of their GDP.

The crisis led to widespread protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in the resignation of his elder brother Mahinda as prime minister last week after fighting between government supporters and protesters killed nine people and wounded 300.

In response to the crisis, Wickremesignhe said the country will print more money and propose to privatize Sri Lanka’s flagship airline to keep the economy afloat — though he conceded that inflation may worsen in the short term.

In his address on Thursday, he vowed to “build a nation without queues for kerosene, gas, and fuel … a nation with plentiful resources.”

Desperate bid

The president replaced Mahinda Rajapaksa with Wickremesinghe, an opposition parliamentarian who has held the post five times previously, in a desperate bid to placate protesters.

But the protesters have said they will keep up their campaign as long as Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains president. They have also labelled Wickremesinghe a stooge and criticized his appointment of four cabinet ministers, all members of the political party run by the Rajapaksa brothers.

Sri Lanka's prime minister resigns amid protests over economic crisis

Wickremesinghe said on Monday he took the role for the good of the country.

In Colombo, the commercial capital, long queues of auto rickshaws, the most popular means of transport in the city, lined up at gas stations in a fruitless wait for fuel.

“I have been in the queue for more than six hours,” said one driver, Mohammad Ali. “We spend almost six to seven hours in the line just to get petrol.”

Another driver, Mohammad Naushad, said the gas station he was waiting at had run out of fuel.

“We’ve been here since 7 to 8 a.m. in the morning and it is still not clear if they will have fuel or not,” he said. “When will it come, no one knows. Is there any point in our waiting here, we also don’t know.”

Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the Rajapaksas, the strategic Indian Ocean island nation is in the midst of a crisis unparalleled since its independence in 1948.

A chronic foreign exchange shortage has led to rampant inflation and shortages of medicine, fuel and other essentials, bringing thousands out on the streets in protest.

Sri Lanka protesters burn politicians' homes as country plunges further into chaos

A diesel shipment using an Indian credit line arrived in the country on Sunday, but is yet to be distributed across the island.

“Request the public not to queue up or top up in the next three days until the 1,190 fuel station deliveries have been completed,” Power Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Monday.

Wickremesinghe is yet to announce key ministers including the crucial post of finance minister, who will negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for badly needed financial help for the country.

Former Finance Minister Ali Sabry had held preliminary talks with the multilateral lender, but he quit along with Mahinda Rajapaksa last week.

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Proposed New York congressional map could pit longtime Democratic members against each other

The proposal, unveiled on Monday from a court-appointed special master, is a first draft. Finalization of the map, which won’t happen until after a public comment period, is expected Friday.

The map as drawn would likely create 15 Democratic-leaning seats, five that lean Republican and six that are more competitive. New York will have 26 congressional districts after losing a seat due to slower population growth over the last decade. Democrats won 19 of the state’s districts in 2020.

Longtime New York City-based Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney would be placed in the same congressional district for the first time in this map configuration. Both have said they intend to run if this version of the map is finalized.

Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Monday that he believes the new lines violate the state constitution. “However, provided that they become permanent, I very much look forward to running in and representing the people of the newly created 12th District of New York.”

“It’s unfortunate, but I’m going run and I’m going win,” Nadler told CNN. He said that “psychologically” it might be tough, noting he likes Maloney and has known her a long time, but said, “You do what you have to do.”

Asked if he would retire, Nadler insisted: “No, no, no.”

Maloney, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Reform, emphasized her connections to the district. “A majority of the communities in the newly redrawn NY-12 are ones I have represented for years and to which I have deep ties,” she said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has said he’d run in the new 17th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones. Jones’ home would be placed in the same district as first-term Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Yvette Clarke could end up in the same Brooklyn-based district.

Jeffries told CNN the new congressional map “undermines communities of interest, communities of color” and is “in violation of the Constitution.”

“I haven’t given it a thought,” he said about which district he would run in.

Asked if the proposed map raised Democrat anxieties about holding the House in November, the caucus chairman claimed that “not a single member is thinking about the House at this particular point in time.”

Members of Congress are not required to live in the district they represent, and not all members have indicated which district they would run in.

Initially, the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a map that would have given Democrats an advantage in 22 of the state’s congressional districts. A court blocked the map for being a partisan gerrymander that violated the state’s constitution.

Under the new proposed map, Republicans would be favored in the Staten Island-based seat currently held by GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. Democrats had tried to tie that district to more Democratic areas of Brooklyn to create another New York City stronghold for the party.

Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire becomes largest in New Mexico history at nearly 300,000 acres

The blaze, burning east of Santa Fe, is 27% contained with 2,015 personnel working to contain the fire, officials said Monday on a Facebook page providing updates on the effort to quell it.

The Calf Canyon Fire started April 19 and later combined with the Hermits Peak Fire, which has been burning for more than a month, to become the nation’s largest wildfire this year. It has destroyed hundreds of homes and grown to a perimeter of over 500 miles.

The wildfire, which has threatened the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has prompted President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Since the fire began, about 26,000 people have been forced to evacuate, with more expected to face evacuations later this week, according to the Fire South Zone Incident Management Team. More than 10,000 homes have been directly impacted by the blaze, team spokesperson Andy Gray said.

Currently, there are 3,820 homes under mandatory evacuation orders in the San Miguel, Mora, Taos and Colfax counties, New Mexico Emergency Operation Center spokesman Travis Martinez told CNN. An additional 56,000 homes are under a voluntary evacuation order, he said.

A red-flag warning is in effect for the area surrounding the fire, with near-critical fire weather conditions, dry lightning, and shifting winds expected amid ongoing dry conditions.

“Dry lightning with sudden and strong erratic wind shifts from any nearby storm” could lead to rapid spreading or shifting of the fire lines, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Albuquerque warned.

Winds from storm outflows could gust as high as 60 mph, in addition to a level 1 of 5 risk for damaging thunderstorm winds with a few of the storms.

“Any new or ongoing fires will be very hard to control,” the warning said.

The cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Roswell in New Mexico all have the potential to tie or break record highs this week, making weather conditions at the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak wildfire even more dire.

Fire weather worsens as heat wave spreads across southern US this week
Exacerbating the problem is the mega-drought the area has been suffering for years that’s dried out vegetation and turned it into ready fuel for any fires that start.

The dry conditions and blowing winds result in a high risk of the current fire spreading, according to Gray. A mix of the historic drought and 2% relative humidity have made the ground extremely dry. Embers blowing as far as 2.5 miles from the fire’s perimeter have a 98-100% probability of ignition, he said.

According to National Interagency Fire Center data, this year has seen more fires nationwide — 24,762 — than any previous year tracked in the last decade. It ranks fourth in the most acres burned to date.

The previous largest fire in New Mexico was the Whitewater-Baldy Fire in 2012 that burned 297,845 acres, the Geographic Area Coordination Centers report.

So far this year, about 480,000 acres have been scorched in New Mexico — more than was burned in the previous two years combined, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. That number is almost double the yearly average of 260,000 acres.

It’s not just the numbers that are frightening: The fire season goes into July, with fire activity across the state typically peaking in June.

CNN’s Haley Brink, Allison Chinchar, Joseph Bonheim and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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Buffalo residents mourn loved ones and a community’s haven

BUFFALO, New York — Phylicia Dove fails to fight back tears as she talks about the massacre that shattered her community’s haven in Buffalo’s Masten Park neighborhood.

“Tops market was a place of community, a safe space for us to meet, to talk, to be together,” she told CNN. “There’s no one here who hasn’t visited this Tops. It was ours. Even if it wasn’t the best, it was ours, and now our safe space has been infiltrated and taken from us and that is something we are mourning.”

The beloved Tops is the only supermarket in a one-mile radius within this largely Black neighborhood and one that took more than a decade to get. It has now been scarred by a deadly rampage whose remnants are evident in the stretches of police tape that now guard the store.

But the real guardians of this grocery store are the hundreds of residents who have swarmed Jefferson Avenue, mourning, praying and beginning their heartbreaking journey toward healing.

The tragedy began when a typical Saturday of grocery shopping turned into a violent nightmare as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron arrived at Tops and gunned down people inside and outside of the store, police say. Eleven of the thirteen victims, ages 20 to 86, were Black.

Gendron has described himself as a White supremacist in a hateful rant online. And residents want the world to know that what happened in their community was an act of terror.

“This has to be labeled a racist hate crime and we want it known that he is a White supremacist,” Dove said. “We also want this spoken about as terrorism, and to make it sound any softer than that is a slap in the face for the families grieving today.”

The slaughter has left this tight-knit community angry and heartbroken, but East Side residents like Tony Marshall have not let their grief keep them away from each other.

Tony Marshall spends a majority of his days at Tops, picking up and dropping off employees and shoppers.

Marshall spent hours under the sun, grilling hot dogs on the corner where Tops loomed behind him, only a few feet away from where he discovered the bodies of three of his friends the day before.

“It was chaos,” he says, looking back at the Tops parking lot. “People crying, people screaming, and I joined them when I saw those bodies, all by the door. Bodies of my friends.”

Marshall, affectionately known in town as “Mr. Tony,” is cooking for hundreds of residents in mourning on Buffalo’s East Side. The jitney driver, who spends a majority of his days at Tops picking up and dropping off employees and shoppers, says he is “emotionally drained.”

“It started the moment I got here and saw my people on the ground and it hasn’t ended since,” he told CNN. “There’s nothing else I want to do but be here, because this is one of them deals where if we let that grief fester, none of us are going to want to be here. And if we’re not here, once again the community suffers.”

Sounds of hope and pain engulf the block, brief laughter mingled with audible crying. Across the street and under a tree commemorated with flowers and candles for those lost, a man wraps his arms around a woman whose tears appear to have no end.

Beside them, a group of young people pass around a small microphone, shouting words of hope. “We will not be broken!” one woman cries.

Victims names are written in chalk near the supermarket.
People surround Elea Daniel in prayer as she cries on Sunday. "God says we have to love no matter what," said Daniel, who was trying to find forgiveness for the man that targeted her community and left 10 dead.

As the community begins its efforts to heal and rebuild, Dove, a local business owner and activist, says she can’t help but worry this won’t be the last time tragedy strikes a Black community in America.

“Where can we exist and be Black and safe?” she asks. “And if it’s not our grocery store, or our church, or any other place where we’ve been shot before, where do we go to exist freely?”

‘We are hated, and now we are being hunted’

Heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, Gendron, who is from Conklin, New York, traveled about 200 miles to Tops with the intention of continuing his shooting rampage beyond the supermarket, police say.
His choice to target Tops was not random; in the hateful rant, the author, who claims to be Payton Gendron, says the supermarket in Buffalo is in a ZIP code that “has the highest Black percentage that is close enough to where I live.”

The ZIP code that includes Tops, 14208, is 78% Black, according to the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. It is among the top 2% of ZIP codes nationwide with the highest percentage of Black population and has the highest percentage of Black population of any ZIP code in upstate New York.

“He knew what he was doing when he came for us,” Raqueal “RaRa” Watson, who was born and raised nearby, told CNN. “It makes us scared, especially as a mother, that someone could come all the way here just to murder us. Ain’t none of us slept last night. This will cause permanent trauma.”

Tops was her local grocery store, she says while sitting on a chair in front of the memorial on Jefferson Ave, where a woman lays flowers before bending down to offer a prayer.

Calvin Albrow and Raqueal "RaRa" Watson pose for a portrait outside the supermarket.
Aaron Salter, the “hero” security guard who engaged the suspect but was fatally shot, watched her grow up in that store, she says.

But despite the memories and the love she held for Tops, the mother of three said she and her family do not plan on ever going there again.

“All we did was be Black,” Watson said. “White people take everything from us. Even the only grocery store in our community. That’s what they’re doing to us.”

Dove, the community activist, is also a mother and she says she’s consumed by another issue: How does she explain the incident to her two young children, who she fears could one day become victims of similar incidents deeply rooted in racism against Black people?

“We shouldn’t have to teach our children that at some point their skin color is going to mark them as different and could mark them as a target,” Dove said. “In this country we are hated, and now we are being hunted. How do you explain to a child there was a massacre at a grocery store because someone hates their skin? What age is appropriate for me to tell them that could happen to them?”

“Growing up not ever thinking or knowing your skin is a problem is a privilege Black bodies don’t have,” she added.

A memorial is set up near Tops.
People look at a rainbow forming a circle around the sun as they mourn and pray on the street outside of Tops.

‘It was about the invisible becoming visible’

Martin Bryant leans against the porch of his home — which sits on the same block as Tops — as his two nephews stand beside him. The three have spent the day standing outside their home, they say, unable to accept that the neighborhood they see now — still swarming with police officers, reporters and dozens of mourners — is the same one they call home.

Bryant was 33 years old when Tops opened up in his neighborhood. After living in the same house on Jefferson Avenue his entire life, he finally had a local grocery store.

It’s a blessing many people take for granted; a reliable place to go to for last-minute dinner ideas, sweet tooth cravings, or to casually stroll aisle to aisle going down a handwritten grocery list.

So when Tops opened in 2003, life completely changed when this community got the grocery store they’d been dreaming about, and fighting for, for more than a decade.

“Tops was a big boost to the community. We actually had a grocery store to call our own. It wasn’t a convenience store like a 7/11, it was a real grocery store. It made everyone happy.” Bryant told CNN. “Local leaders fought hard for it and the location was perfect because it is right off two bus lines.”

A video from the supermarket’s grand opening shows a level of joy from residents, who are seen cheering and filling up the aisles of their new store, disturbingly contrary to the horror seen within those same walls on Saturday.

“For the community that had long lived without viable fresh fruits and vegetables this was a sign of progress, a sign of being and feeling recognized,” Dove said. “A sign that the East Side mattered and was an area of the city worth being invested into. It was about the invisible becoming visible.”

From left, Darious Morgan, Martin Bryant and Jordan Bryant stand on the steps of a family member's home, two doors down from Tops.

Before Tops, residents had to rely on a “dirty corner store that was never stocked” or travel to neighboring areas to shop. When winters were bad, it made it especially difficult, Bryant said, and for older people and low-income residents who couldn’t afford to own cars, things were more dire.

Now, Bryant fears for the elderly and the less privileged in his neighborhood who might not feel safe going into Tops anymore.

“Elderly people go there. My mother, who was in a wheelchair, got to go there any day she wanted to get a few things,” Bryant said. “We try to have hope, because what will they have if they don’t have Tops? Even I might not want to go in there again.”

The nearest grocery store is a Wegmans, which is about 4 miles away. Although it’s a 15-minute drive, public transportation could make the journey up to an hour long. Another issue is that Wegmans is considered a high-end supermarket and the prices are less affordable for some Masten Park residents.

“To have that only space for us, celebrated in 2003 so not too long ago, the only supermarket in what really is a food desert, taken away is traumatizing,” Dove said. “It’s a sense of being kicked when we were already down, so it’s a different level of pain we’re feeling. We didn’t have much, and you took what was left.”

Tops Friendly Markets said in a statement the store will be closed “until further notice,” but the community fears it will never reopen. And even if it does, Bryant says, walking across a parking lot and into a store where the dead bodies once were might be impossible.

“We are broken, possibly irreversibly,” Dove said. “Will we ever be the same? No. Will we rebuild? Yes. Because we don’t have a choice. Black people in America have never had a choice.”

People surround Deazjah Roseboro, 12, as she comforts her 8-year-old cousin, Jerney Moss.

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Social media platforms struggle to stop the spread of Buffalo shooting video

Major social media platforms have tried to improve how they respond to the sharing of this kind of content since the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, which was streamed live on Facebook. In the 24 hours after that attack, Facebook said it removed 1.5 million copies of the video. Experts in online extremism say such content can act as far-right terrorist propaganda and inspire others to carry out similar attacks; the Buffalo shooter was directly influenced by the Christchurch attack, according to the document he allegedly shared.

The stakes for addressing the spread of such content quickly are significant. “This fits into a model that we’ve seen over and over and over again,” said Ben Decker, CEO of digital investigations consultancy Memetica and an expert on online radicalization and extremism. “At this point we know that the consumption of these videos creates copycat mass shootings.”

Still, social media companies face challenges in responding to what appears to be users posting a deluge of copies of the Buffalo shooting video and document.
Saturday’s attack was streamed live on Twitch, a video streaming service owned by Amazon (AMZN) that is particularly popular with gamers. Twitch said it removed the video two minutes after the violence started, before it could be widely viewed but not before it was downloaded by other users. The video has since been shared hundreds of thousands of times across major social media platforms and also posted to more obscure video hosting sites.
Spokespeople for Facebook, Twitter (TWTR), YouTube and Reddit all told CNN that they have banned sharing the video on their sites and are working to identify and remove copies of it. (TikTok did not respond to requests for comment on its response.) But the companies appear to be struggling to contain the spread and manage users looking for loopholes in their content moderation practices.
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CNN observed a link to a copy of the video circulating on Facebook on Sunday night. Facebook included a warning that the link violated its community standards but still allowed users to click through and watch the video. Facebook parent company Meta (FB) said it had removed the link after CNN asked about it.

Meta on Saturday designated the event as a “terrorist attack,” which triggered the company’s internal teams to identify and remove the account of the suspect, as well as to begin removing copies of the video and document and links to them on other sites, according to a company spokesperson. The company added the video and document to an internal database that helps automatically detect and remove copies if they are reuploaded. Meta has also banned content that praises or supports the attacker, the spokesperson said.

The video was also hosted on a lesser known video service called Streamable and was only removed after it had reportedly been viewed more than 3 million times, and its link shared across Facebook and Twitter, according to The New York Times.

A spokesperson for Streamable told CNN the company was “working diligently” to remove copies of the video “expeditiously.” The spokesperson did not respond when asked how one video had reached millions of views before it was removed.

Copies of the document allegedly written by the shooter were uploaded to Google Drive and other, smaller online storage sites and shared over the weekend via links to those platforms. Google did not respond to requests for comment about the use of Drive to spread the document.

Challenges for addressing extremist content

In some cases, the big platforms appeared to struggle with common moderation pitfalls, such as removing English-language uploads of the video faster than those in other languages, according to Tim Squirrell, communications head at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank dedicated to addressing extremism.

But the mainstream Big Tech platforms also must grapple with the fact that not all internet platforms want to take action against such content.

Tech platforms have struggled to address live shootings. New legislation could make it impossible
In 2017, Facebook, Microsoft (MSFT), YouTube and Twitter founded the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an organization designed to help promote collaboration in preventing terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting their platforms that has since grown to include more than a dozen companies. Following the Christchurch attack in 2019, the group committed to prevent the livestreaming of attacks on their platforms and to coordinate to address violent and extremist content.

“Now, technically, that failed. It was on Twitch. It then started getting posted around in the initial 24 hours,” Decker said, adding that the platforms have more work to do in effectively coordinating to remove harmful content during crisis situations. Still, the work done by the major platforms since Christchurch meant that their response to Saturday’s attack was faster and more robust than the reaction three years ago.

But elsewhere on the internet, smaller sites such as 4chan and messaging platform Telegram provided a place where users could congregate and coordinate to repeatedly re-upload the video and document, according to Squirrell. (For its part, Telegram says it “expressly prohibits” violence and is working to remove footage of the Buffalo shooting.)

“Many of the threads on 4chan’s message board were just people demanding the stream over and over again, and once they got a seven-minute version, just re-posting it over and over again” to bigger platforms, Squirrell said. As with other content on the internet, videos like the one of Saturday’s shooting are also often quickly manipulated by online extremist communities and incorporated into memes and other content that can be harder for mainstream platforms to identify and remove.

Like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, platforms like 4chan rely on user generated content, and are legally protected (at least in the United States) by a law called Section 230 from liability over much of what users post. But whereas the mainstream Big Tech platforms are incentivized by advertisers, social pressures and users to address harmful content, the smaller, more fringe platforms are not motivated by a desire to protect ad revenue or attract a broad base of users. In some cases, they desire to be online homes for speech that would be moderated elsewhere.

“The consequence of that is that you can never complete the game of whack-a-mole,” Squirrell said. “There’s always going to be somewhere, someone circulating a Google Drive link or a Samsung cloud link or something else that allows people to access this … Once it’s out in the ether, it’s impossible to take everything down.”

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California court strikes down another law seeking to diversify corporate boards

Late last week, a California judge in the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the state’s 2018 law requiring public companies headquartered in California to have a minimum number of women on their board violates the state’s constitution.

The law required companies to place at least one woman on their board by the end of 2019 — or face a penalty. The California legislation also required companies with five directors to have at least two women by the end of 2021, and companies with six or more directors to have at least three women by the end of the same year.

Among the reasons the judge gave for overturning the law: The state “failed to sufficiently prove that [the law’s] use of a gender-based classification was necessary to boost California’s economy, improve opportunities for women in the workplace, and protect California taxpayers, public employees, pensions, and retirees.”

“This disappointing ruling is a reminder that sometimes our legalities don’t match our realities,” said California Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, who coauthored the law, in a statement. “More women on corporate boards means better decisions and businesses that outperform the competition — that’s a studied, proven fact.”

Last month, another California judge struck down the state’s 2020 law requiring companies to have a minimum number of directors from underrepresented groups. That would include people identifying as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

When the laws, which both phased in their mandates over time, were passed, the expectation was that their effect would be felt beyond just company boards in California since so many companies headquartered there also operated in other states and internationally.

What impact the latest rulings will have is unclear since there has been a growing call among institutional shareholders and exchanges like Nasdaq to boost diversity on public boards and increase public disclosure of diversity statistics for investors. And all that comes among a broader push for corporations to treat environmental, social and governance issues as a business imperative.

“For those still afraid of women in positions of leadership, they need to work on figuring that out because the world is moving on without them,” said Atkins.

Julie Hembrock Daum, who leads the North American Board Practice of executive and board search firm Spencer Stuart, said both California laws did boost the number of women and minorities on corporate boards, particularly on boards that before were very homogenous. “Most companies decided to take action even though they knew the laws might be struck down,” Daum said.

Now without the California mandates, companies may not diversify their boards as much as they were obligated to under the struck-down laws, she said. But she expects they will continue to diversify, if not of their own accord than under pressure from institutional shareholders. “The baseline [for diversity] has moved up,” Daum said.

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