One of the suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong Un, is a senior official in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police said Wednesday. Police also identified another suspect as having ties to the North Korean airline. Both suspects are still in Malaysia and police are looking to question them. The suspects, police say, were trained to wipe a toxin on Kim’s face. They were then trained to wash their hands. Kim was killed last week at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Police say four other suspects have already flown back to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
—Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial editor at Breitbart News, has been disinvited from a conservative conference and lost his book deal over comments he made about sex with underage boys. More here
—Police were pelted with rocks, about a dozen cars were burned, and shops vandalized in Rinkeby, a predominantly immigrant suburb of Stockholm. More here
—Several bomb threats were reported against Jewish Community Centers across the U.S. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Suspect in Kim Jong Nam's Assassination Works for North Korean Embassy
Police Respond to Reports of an Active Shooter at a Houston Hospital
This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. ET
Police in Houston responded Tuesday to reports of an active shooter at Ben Taub Hospital. No injuries were reported. Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that authorities conducted two full searches of the medical facility and that no suspect or evidence of gunfire was found. The hospital has since resumed normal operation. More on the incident here
Riot Erupts in Stockholm Suburb
Police were pelted with rocks, about a dozen cars were burned, and shops vandalized Monday night in Rinkeby, a predominantly immigrant suburb of Stockholm. The violence erupted just days after President Trump appeared to link Sweden’s policy toward refugees and asylum-seekers to a spike in crime. The riot was reportedly prompted by the arrest of an individual on drug-related charges in the area earlier that evening. The riot, which lasted more than three hours, ended at about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday. A police spokesman told Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish newspaper, that an officer fired a shot, but no one was hit. No arrests were made. The incident, while relatively minor, comes just days after Trump’s remarks, which he attributed to a report on Fox News. Swedish authorities appeared puzzled by the president’s statements. In the refugee crisis that overwhelmed the European Union in 2015 and 2016, Sweden accepted more refugees per capita than any other member of the bloc. In 2015 alone, the country accepted 150,000 asylum-seekers. Nearly half of all Swedes say they believe refugees are more to blame for crime than other groups, but Swedish crime data do not show a significant increase in crime during this period. Trump maintains that an open-door policy toward migrants and refugees poses a security threat. Rinkeby is populated overwhelmingly by immigrants from Somalia and the Arab world, and their children. The area of about 16,000 residents has seen similar riots in the past, most notably in 2010 and 2013.
UPDATE: Milo Yiannopoulos Resigns from Breitbart
Updated at 2:45 p.m.
Break: MILO resigns from Breitbart pic.twitter.com/pSQnJ0b9vA— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 21, 2017
Our original post:
Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial Breitbart News editor, has been disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was a scheduled speaker, after the emergence of a video that appears to show him condoning sex with underage boys. The video also cost Yiannopoulos his $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster. Brietbart, the conservative news site where Yiannopoulos is a senior editor, is reportedly reconsidering its relationship with him, as well. Yiannopoulos has positioned himself a champion of free speech, and it’s that view that won him conservative defenders in his many well-publicized controversies, including his remarks about Leslie Jones, the Ghostbusters star, which ultimately got him banned from Twitter. But his remarks on the Drunken Peasants Podcast, in which he said “some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships” may be appropriate, drew outrage. In a Facebook post, Yiannopoulos denied he supported pedophilia, saying it “disgusts” him. He added that he would hold a news conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday to address the controversy.
Azerbaijan President Names His Wife Vice President
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev appointed Tuesday his wife, Mehriban, the country’s first-ever vice president. The position was created in September through a constitutional referendum expanding presidential powers, including the ability to dissolve the country’s cabinet and an extension of the presidential term from five to seven years. Critics said the move cemented dynastic rule in the former Soviet republic, which was previously led by Aliyev’s father, Heydar Aliyev. Though the constitution does not specify the vice president’s role, he or she is expected to take over the president’s duties in the event the president cannot perform them. Mehriban Aliyev is from a family described in leaked U.S. State Department cables as “the single most powerful family in Azerbaijan.” She is not new to politics. In addition to being designated as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2004, she was elected in 2005 as a member of Azerbaijan’s parliament (though she allegedly she did not attend sessions).
Under New Homeland Security Rules, More People Can Be Deported
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued rules Tuesday that expands the number of people who can be deported from the United States. Under the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants who had committed serious crimes were prioritized for removal. But the new rules authorize agents to deport any undocumented immigrant convicted of a criminal offense. Those now eligible for removal include people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits” and those convicted of fraud. The rules authorize agents to immediately deport people who have been in the country for up to two years and located anywhere in the U.S. Previously, the immediate removals were restricted to those in the country for 14 days or fewer, and within 100 miles of the border. The DHS rules fulfill President Trump’s executive order that cracked down on illegal immigration—a longstanding campaign pledge. About 11 million people are believed to be in the U.S. illegally. During the eight years of the Obama administration, approximately 2.5 million people were removed from the U.S.—more than under any previous president.
Heterosexual Couple Loses Bid for Civil Partnership
The London Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday against a heterosexual couple seeking a civil partnership, an alternative to marriage that under British law applies only to same-sex couples. At issue is a claim by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a couple from London who in 2014 petitioned the government to enter into a civil partnership after determining that traditional marriage, which they described as “patriarchal,” was not for them. The 2004 Civil Partnership Act grants same-sex couples in Britain the right to enter into legal partnerships—a precursor to Britain’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013. Despite the passage of same-sex marriage legislation, the civil partnership legislation was maintained, though it only extends to same-sex couples—an aspect of the law which Steinfeld and Keidan argued is discriminatory. In their two-to-one decision, the Court of Appeal judges ruled that though a ban on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples could be considered discriminatory and constitutes a violation of the couple’s privacy under the European Convention for Human Rights, the government should be given more time to consider the future of civil partnerships. Steinfeld and Keidan called the ruling disappointing, but said they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Bodies of 74 Migrants Wash Up on Libyan Coast
Seventy-four bodies were recovered Monday on the northwestern coast of Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent said Tuesday. The individuals, believed to be migrants bound for Italy, were discovered by Red Crescent volunteers on a beach in the coastal city of Zawiya. They are believed to have drowned after their rubber dinghy, which was found nearby, capsized. Flavio Di Giacomo, the spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), said 110 people were onboard the dinghy when it departed Saturday from Sabratha, in western Libya. The remaining passengers have not been found. More than 5,000 migrants have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2016, making it the deadliest year for migrants on record. The IOM estimates that at least 270 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2017.
Jewish Centers Threatened, Gravesites Vandalized
The Anti-Defamation League [ADL] has reported bomb threats directed Monday at Jewish Community Centers across the U.S., calling them “alarming, disruptive, and [to be] … taken seriously.” ADL pointed out this is the fourth such incident this year. No one has claimed responsibility for the threats. The ADL’s statement came a day after more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri, were damaged. No one claimed responsibility. The threats prompted Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Trump, to say:
America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) February 20, 2017
In the last two months, the national JCC said its chapters in 27 states have received a total of 54 threatening calls. As my colleague Emma Green notes, “The calls may be a novel form of intimidation, but the context around them is not. American Jews are victims of more reported hate crimes than any other group in the United States, and have been subject to the majority of religiously motivated offenses every year since 1995, when the FBI first started reporting these statistics.” You can read more about the threats here.
Israeli Soldier Sentenced to 18 Months in Killing of Wounded Palestinian Attacker
Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted last month of manslaughter for killing a wounded Palestinian attacker, was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison. At issue is the incident that occurred March 24, 2016, in the West Bank town of Hebron. As I wrote last month: “A Palestinian man, later identified as Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, and his friend, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, stabbed an Israeli soldier. Qasrawi was shot and killed. Sharif was shot, wounded, and was lying immobile on the ground. Video from the scene showed Azaria, who was standing several meters away, cocking his gun, and shooting the Palestinian in the head, killing him. The Israeli Military Police arrested Azaria, 20, investigated the killing, and later charged him with manslaughter.” The sentence is likely to reopen the debate over Azaria’s actions. His supporters, including prominent Israeli minister, and defense attorneys argued the sergeant suspected Sharif, the 21-year-old Palestinian attacker, was trying to detonate a suicide vest, and, they point out, the incident occurred amid a spate of random knife and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military personnel. But critics and the IDF pointed out his actions violated the military’s code of conduct. Indeed, a fellow IDF soldier testified that Azaria had told him the attacker “deserves to die.” The military court also handed Azaria a one-year suspended sentence. His attorneys said they’d appeal. Palestinians called the sentence insufficient.