First Thing: Autopsy of ‘Cop City’ activist shot by police still incomplete | US news

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Attorneys for the family of Manuel Paez Terán, known as Tortuguita, have disclosed to the Guardian that a medical examiner’s office in Georgia has still not completed an autopsy of the environmental activist nearly two months after he was shot dead by the police.

Among the issues at stake in the high-profile case is the question of whether Paez Terán shot at officers first, although it remains unclear if the autopsy would provide this information. The 26-year-old died when police raided a camp in a forest near Atlanta, Georgia, close to the construction site of a large police and fire department training facility known as Cop City.

Paez Terán’s death was the first killing by police of an environmental activist in US history and has helped propel the protests over Cop City into the headlines across the US and the world.

The civil rights attorney Wingo Smith, a member of a firm representing Paez Terán’s family, said he learned of the news in a brief phone call from Patrick Bailey, the director of the Dekalb county medical examiner’s office. Bailey said an autopsy report would be available in several weeks, Smith said.

  • What did an independent autopsy reveal? A separate, family-ordered autopsy appeared to show that the activist was sitting cross-legged, with his hands in front of his face, when he was hit by a hail of bullets. “Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised when killed,” the civil rights attorney Brian Spears said.

California town races for survival after levees fail: ‘It destroyed everything’

A home is surrounded by flood waters from the Pajaro River after days of heavy rain in Pajaro, California.Pin
A home is surrounded by flood waters from the Pajaro River after days of heavy rain in Pajaro, California. Photograph: David Swanson/Reuters

Just after midnight on Friday, sirens wailed through the town of Pajaro, warning residents to leave. Engorged by unrelenting rains, the river that snakes alongside the town had overflowed its banks and ageing levees ruptured against the weight of the furious waterway. Parts of the town were quickly steeped in brown-tinged water deep enough to submerge cars, inundate key infrastructure and soak homes, displacing thousands of people.

The Pajaro flood is the latest in a series of weather-related catastrophes to have rocked California since last December. The recently drought-stricken state has been drenched, with the deluges soaking into saturated hillsides, sending mud and debris cascading across highways and into homes. Mountain towns tucked along the Sierra Nevada range have been buried by snow as cold weather and high winds caused widespread power outages and cut off both access and escape.

As the sun burst through the clouds during a brief reprieve from the storms on Monday, emergency response crews in boats, high-clearance vehicles or wading through the waters on foot, rushed through the vacant streets of Pajaro to secure the water-soaked neighborhoods and help those still in their homes.

“Our number 1 priority is the preservation of life but second to that is the preservation of property,” said the battalion chief, Gino Degraffenreid.

  • What has the impact of the flood been like? Three water systems have been identified as potentially contaminated, according to county officials. Eleven schools have had to close, and hundreds of people are being housed in shelters where beds are mostly full. County officials are bracing for more evacuations and new damage from the next big rain.

Stormy DanielsPin
Donald Trump’s lawyers argue hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, pictured, are not a breach of campaign laws. Photograph: Markus Schreiber/AP

Donald Trump’s legal team recently urged the Manhattan district attorney’s office not to indict the former president over his role in paying hush money to a pornography star, arguing that the payments would have been made irrespective of his 2016 presidential candidacy, sources familiar with the matter have said.

The lawyer who represented the Trump team at the meeting with the district attorney’s office, Susan Necheles, also argued that campaign funds had not been used for the payments to Stormy Daniels, and were therefore not a violation of campaign finance laws.

The arguments presented to the district attorney’s office mark the most formal defense the Trump team have raised to date, as they attempt to settle on a strategy to avoid conviction in the event that the former president is charged with a misdemeanour or felony over the payments.

Trump may face an uphill struggle with those arguments, given that having “mixed motives” to protect himself personally and to protect his campaign could leave him liable, and the timing of the payments suggests there was an urgency to pay the money before the end of the 2016 campaign.

  • Is Daniels involved in the case? She met with the district attorney’s office at their request, her lawyer said in a tweet. Daniels responded to questions, he said, “and has agreed to make herself available as a witness, or for further inquiry if needed”.

Family of Florida man who died while being violently restrained sues jail staff

Kevin Desir’s family sitting on a sofaPin
Kevin Desir’s family say officials used excessive force on him and showed deliberate indifference to his medical and mental health needs. Photograph: Bryan Cereijo/the Guardian

The family of a Florida man who died after being violently restrained by jailers is filing a civil rights suit against the officers who were involved in the incident and the jail’s healthcare provider.

According to a draft of the lawsuit shared exclusively with the Guardian, the family of 43-year-old Kevin Desir allege that Broward county sheriff officials used excessive force against Desir while he was suffering from a severe mental health episode, violating his rights under the 14th amendment.

“As a result of the customs, practices, policies, or procedures that directed, encouraged, or permitted the individual defendants to use excessive force, the individual defendants used excessive force on Kevin during his mental health crisis, causing conscious pain and suffering and later death,” the suit says.

The suit also alleges that jail staff in the North Broward Bureau detention facility showed deliberate indifference to Desir’s medical and mental health care needs, both before he was restrained by jail staff and after he was injured from being restrained.

  • What does the suit say happened? “Defendants had actual knowledge of Kevin’s mental health and medical needs, yet they responded to his mental health crisis by forcibly removing him from his cell, dragging him across the floor, and pinning him to the ground while using excessive force – tasing him, punching him, and putting all of their weight on him,” it said.

In other news …

A prototype of the new Nasa spacesuit to be worn by astronauts on the planned Artemis 3 moon mission.Pin
A prototype of the new Nasa spacesuit to be worn by astronauts on the planned Artemis 3 moon mission. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP
  • Nasa has unveiled the first prototype for a newly designed next-generation spacesuit specially tailored and accessorised for the first astronauts expected to venture back to the moon’s surface in the next few years. The outfits are more streamlined and flexible than Apollo suits, and are a better fit for women.

  • Credit Suisse’s shares have jumped in value, reversing Wednesday’s slump, as investors welcome its plan to seek a lifeline from the Swiss central bank. Credit Suisse’s shares jumped 32% at the start of trading in Zurich, after announcing it will borrow up to 50bn Swiss francs ($54bn) to boost its liquidity.

  • A man who served more than 30 years of a 400-year prison sentence has been freed after he was exonerated for armed robbery charges. On Monday, 57-year-old Sidney Holmes was released from prison in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after the state decided to re-investigate a 1988 armed robbery.

  • The Kremlin has deployed new disinformation themes and tactics to weaken US support for Kyiv with help from conservative media stars and some Republicans in Congress, according to new studies and experts. Alternative social media platforms, such as Parler, Rumble, Gab and Odysee, have increasingly been used to spread Russian falsehoods.

  • The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has swiftly rejected a proposed compromise from President Isaac Herzog aimed at resolving a standoff over the planned judicial overhaul by Netanyahu’s far-right coalition that has triggered mass protests in recent weeks.

Don’t miss this: ‘We’re on our own’ – the rural US town where police refuse calls

Aview of Rancho Tehema ReservePin
People typically come to the Ranch seeking space and quiet. Photograph: Andri Tambunan/The Guardian

In Rancho Tehama Reserve, residents are used to getting by without everything they need. The price, or the perk, of living among the oak trees and rolling hills where cattle graze in this rural northern California community is its isolation. Lately, however, the seclusion of this community of 1,750 has presented a dangerous dilemma – people say that when they call 911, they are frequently unable to get any help. The police staffing shortage in Tehama county reached “crisis” levels last year. The agency reduced its office hours and suspended its morning patrols, and in November cut daytime patrols entirely. “It’s kind of a ticking timebomb out here,” said Cheyenne Thornton, an office manager with the local homeowners’ association. “Unless you’re bleeding or dying, you’re probably not going to get a sheriff or anyone to respond.”

People wait outside the Silicon Valley Bank headquarters in Santa Clara, California, to withdraw funds after the federal government intervened upon the collapse of the bank.Pin
People wait outside the Silicon Valley Bank headquarters in Santa Clara, California, to withdraw funds after the federal government intervened upon the collapse of the bank. Photograph: Brittany Hosea-Small/Reuters

There is nothing new about a financial emergency, but the fear around the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) – and the resulting responses – are unique in having been accelerated by a frenzy of social media chatter. A bank run occurs when large numbers of customers withdraw their deposits all at once because they lose faith in the bank. The collapse of SVB was the second-largest bank failure in US histor. The largest, Washington Mutual in 2008, took place over the course of eight months. SVB’s collapse played out in barely two days. Anxious Twitter posts and WhatsApp exchanges, coupled with the ease of access that online banking provides, are seen by analysts as a catalyst for the current crisis.

Climate check: US allergy season starting earlier due to global temperature rise, scientists say

A man blows his nose while sitting at a work deskPin
The length of the pollen season increased by 20 days between 1990 and 2018. Photograph: Ika84/Getty Images

As the global temperature has increased in recent years owing to climate change, allergy season in the US is starting earlier and the amount of pollen during such periods has increased, leading to worse allergy and asthma symptoms for some – and new symptoms altogether for others, according to scientists. That trend is projected to increase as average temperatures continue to rise, but could be reversed if carbon emissions can be reduced, allergists say. Across North America, the length of the pollen season increased by 20 days, and pollen concentration increased by 21%, between 1990 and 2018, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That is largely dbecause of global warming, the study states.

Last Thing: Conservatives hate wokeness. Don’t trigger them by asking what it means

People gather as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signs the ‘stop woke’ bill in April 2022.Pin
People gather as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signs the ‘stop woke’ bill in April 2022. Photograph: Daniel A Varela/AP

Tired of hearing conservatives go on and on about “wokeness”? Me too, writes Arwa Mahdawi. This week an anti-woke commentator seemed to short-circuit when asked to define the term, which the right has turned into a catch-all. Bethany Mandel appeared on the Hill’s morning program Rising, where she proceeded to repeat “wokeness” ad nauseam before being asked to define it, which seemed to come as a shock. “So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that … um …” she replied before trailing off and pausing for an awkwardly long time. “I – this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral.” She was certainly right about that: the clip of her tortuously trying to explain wokeness, which she says she devoted an entire chapter of her new book to, has been viewed millions of times and sparked a lot of headlines.

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