Joe Biden announces presidential campaign, Putin and Kim Jong-un meet, and a judge charged with helping immigrant evade ICE

Former VP Joe Biden jumps into the race for president, Putin and Kim Jong-un meet for talks, a judge is charged with helping an immigrant evade ICE, and much, much more.

 

Good evening, it’s Thursday, April 25th, here’s what you need to know…

 

 

1. Joe Biden announces presidential campaign

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden has announced his candidacy for president of the United States Thursday morning, ending months of speculation. Biden’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated presidential bid was made official after months of consideration between the Democratic candidate and his family. He joins the race as an early frontrunner in a field of nearly 20 contenders as polls show him well in the lead ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In a campaign video announcing his candidacy, Biden said, “We are in the battle for the soul of this nation” and warned that eight years of President Donald Trump “will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.” He made the focus of his campaign clear, calling out Trump by name and invoking the controversial response the president made to violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The 76-year-old former vice president and longtime Delaware senator enjoys strong name recognition across the country and appeals to working-class voters in key battleground states, elements that will make Biden standout in the Democratic primary. This will be Biden’s third campaign for president following two unsuccessful bids in 1988 and 2008.

 

 

2. Putin and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet for the first time on Thursday in Russia to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Putin said he was “pleased” with the outcome of the talks and pledged to share the results of the meeting with the United States and China. The Russian leader said his country, like the U.S., wants denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but suggested that the U.S. will have to make greater compromises to achieve that goal. Putin added that other countries would need to be brought into the negotiations and that Pyongyang would need security guarantees in order to craft an agreement. The summit comes two months after failed talks between President Donald Trump and Kim in Vietnam that ended without an agreement on denuclearization in North Korea. During the February summit with the U.S., Kim was reportedly unhappy with the major demands by the Trump administration before they would lift any crippling sanctions off the country.

 

3. Massachusetts judge charged with helping immigrant evade ICE

 

A Massachusetts state judge and court officer were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury after being accused of helping an illegal immigrant avoid arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, 51, and trial court officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, face obstruction of justice charges and have pleaded not guilty.  MacGregor was also charged with one count of perjury. The charges are related to an April 2, 2018, incident in which Joseph and MacGregor assisted Jose Medina-Perez, a twice-deported undocumented immigrant, escape out of the courthouse by a back door to elude an ICE agent who sought Medina-Perez. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has suspended Judge Joseph without pay following her indictment.

 

4. FBI raids Baltimore City Hall and Mayor’s home

 

The FBI and IRS have executed search warrants on Baltimore City Hall and the home of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh as part of an investigation into her business dealings. Federal authorities are looking into whether Mayor Pugh profited from her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s book after the University of Maryland Medical System purchased $500,000 worth of the books while Pugh served as an unpaid member on its board of directors.  FBI agents and IRS officials conducted early morning raids of the Democratic mayor’s City Hall office, two of her homes, the offices of her aides, and a nonprofit organization with ties to her. No arrests have been made so far. Baltimore’s embattled mayor has been plagued with the book scandal for months as she took a leave of absence from her role on April 1 to recover from “pneumonia.” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has called for Mayor Pugh to resign, and Baltimore’s city council unanimously called for Pugh to step down earlier this month.

 

5. Texas executes John King

 

Texas has executed John William King, an avowed white supremacist who was sentenced to death 20 years ago for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in 1998. In one of the most appalling hate crimes in American history, King and two other accomplices ruthlessly beat Byrd, a 49-year-old black man, then chained him to the back of a truck and dragged him for nearly 3 miles along an asphalt road in Jasper, Texas.  Byrd was believed to have been alive for at least 2 miles before being decapitated. King, 44, was executed by lethal injection shortly after 7 PM in a Huntsville, Texas, state prison. The heinous nature of the case gained national attention and was influential in the passage of federal hate crime legislation by Congress.

 

 

6. Florida legislature passes bill that bans texting while driving

 

The Florida legislature has passed a bill to make texting while driving a primary traffic offense that could now allow law enforcement to write citations for drivers. The bill passed both the House and Senate, but the upper chamber made revisions to the bill, so it will now go back to the House for approval. In addition to banning texting while driving, the bill will also prohibit drivers from talking on a handheld cellphone in school and construction zones. Under current law, officers can only pull over drivers for texting while driving as a secondary offense, meaning if some other violation occurred, such as speeding or having a taillight out. A first offense will result in a $30 fine while a second offense will cost $60. The bill is expected to pass the House after revisions and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will likely sign the measure. If Florida passes the bill, it will join 43 states that already make texting while driving a primary offense.

 

7. Ex-State Department employee pleads guilty to conspiring with China

 

A former U.S. State Department employee has pleaded guilty to conspiring with China, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday. Candace Claiborne, 63, is accused of receiving gifts from Chinese agents in exchange for providing them with internal information from the State Department. Claiborne is also accused of lying to law enforcement investigators and hiding her extensive communication with China. She provided Chinese agents with documents on U.S. economic strategies, visits made by high-profile officials between the two countries, and other internal documents on a broad range of topics. The gifts included international vacations, full tuition at a fashion school in China, a monthly stipend to Claiborne and a family member, and cash payments. She was first charged in 2017 and could face up to five years in prison.

 

8. Saudi Arabia executes 37 people for “terrorism”

 

Saudi Arabia has executed 37 men for terror-related crimes committed against the kingdom, according to the government-run news agency. The 37 were Saudi citizens, mostly minority Shiites, who were beheaded in mass executions on Tuesday for allegedly committing terrorism-related acts and were convicted in questionable legal proceedings. Those executed “adopted extremist terrorist ideologies and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disrupt security as well as spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife,” the Saudi Press Agency said in a tweet. However, the international community has condemned the killings and raised concerns over human rights in the country. The mass execution marked the most Shiites killed at one time by the kingdom and was the largest in Saudi Arabia since 47 were killed in 2016.

 

Among those executed was Mujtaba al-Sweikat, a Saudi national who was arrested in 2012 at the age of 17. He was arrested at King Fahd International Airport while on his way to the U.S. to attend Western Michigan University. He was allegedly arrested for taking part in a pro-democracy rally during the Arab Spring.

 

 

9. Microsoft hits market valuation of $1 trillion

 

The technology and software giant Microsoft briefly hit a market valuation of $1 trillion on Wednesday after the stock jumped on a strong earnings report. Microsoft joins Apple and Amazon as the only three public companies to have hit the $1 trillion mark. The company’s stock has seen tremendous growth in the last few years due to the success of its cloud computing business, Azure. 

10. Afghan and U.S. forces killed more civilians than Taliban so far in 2019

 

The Afghan government and U.S.-led forces have been responsible for more civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2019 than both the Taliban and ISIS, according to a recent report by the United Nations. It is the first time since 2009, when the UN began tracking the number of civilian causalities in Afghanistan, that pro-government forces have caused more deaths than insurgent groups. In the first quarter of 2019, terrorist groups killed 227 civilians and injured 736 more while pro-government forces were responsible for 305 deaths and 303 injuries among civilians, according to the report. The UN says the leading cause of civilian deaths were ground engagements, followed by IED attacks and aerial operations.

 

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