News Headlines 3/18/21

SUSPECT CHARGED WITH KILLING EIGHT PEOPLE IN ATLANTA MASSAGE PARLOR ATTACKS, CLAIMS ‘SEX ADDICTION’: The 21-year-old suspect in the attacks at three Atlanta-area massage parlors was charged Wednesday (March 17th) with killing eight people. Police said that Robert Aaron Long told them that even though six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent, the Tuesday attacks weren’t racially motivated. He claimed instead to have a “sex addiction,” and attacked the massage parlors as places of temptation for him. Officials also said he was heading to Florida when he was apprehended to attack, quote, “some type of porn industry.” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker told reporters, “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” Baker was criticized for saying that Long allegedly carried out the killings after he’d had, quote, “a really bad day.” Despite Long claiming the attacks weren’t racially motivated, they’ve struck fear in the Asian American community, which has been targeted by increased assaults during the coronavirus pandemic. President Biden tweeted yesterday in response to the attack, “We don’t yet know the motive, but what we do know is that the Asian-American community is feeling enormous pain tonight. The recent attacks against the community are un-American. They must stop.”

TWO JURORS DISMISSED FROM TRIAL OF OFFICER IN GEORGE FLOYD CASE OVER $27 MILLION SETTLEMENT NEWS: The judge in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, yesterday (March 17th) dismissed two jurors who’d been selected due to concerns they’d been tainted by the news last week that the city had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family. At the request of Chauvin’s attorney, Judge Peter Cahill questioned seven jurors who’d been seated before the settlement news broke, asking what they knew about it and whether it would affect their ability to serve, ultimately dismissing two of them. Cahill said he’ll rule Friday on the defense request to delay or move the trial because of the settlement news. Meanwhile, two more jurors were chosen yesterday, bringing the total selected so far back up to nine. A total of 12 jurors and two alternates will need to be chosen.

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: VIOLENT EXTREMISTS POSE ‘ELEVATED THREAT’ TO U.S.: An unclassified intelligence report released yesterday (March 17th) said there is a, quote, “elevated threat” to the U.S. from violent extremists motivated by different ideologies and racial biases. Weeks after the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, President Biden assigned intelligence officials to evaluate the threat from extremists. A classified report was given to the White House and Congress, and an unclassified summary released publicly yesterday. Intelligence officials said in the report that the deadliest threat is from racially-motivated violent extremists and militia groups. They also said that developments like anger over conditions related to the pandemic and belief in the false claim that the November presidential election was fraudulent, quote, “will almost certainly” spur more violence this year.

BIDEN DEFENDS NOT PUNISHING SAUDI CROWN PRINCE FOR KHASHOGGI MURDER: President Biden yesterday (March 17th) defended not punishing Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon for the October 2018 murder of Saudi Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed and dismembered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. U.S. intelligence has concluded in a report released last month that bin Salman authorized the team that killed Khashoggi. Biden said in an ABC News interview, “We held accountable all the people in that organization — but not the crown prince, because we have never that I’m aware of, when we have an alliance with a country, gone to the acting head of state and punished that person and ostracized him.” However, AP noted the U.S. doesn’t have a treaty binding it to Saudi Arabia and it isn’t designated as a major non-NATO ally. In speaking about holding people accountable, Biden was referring to the U.S. having imposed penalties and visa restrictions on the Saudi agents who killed Khashoggi.