The sudden firing of FBI director James Comey last week unfolded like a screenplay, including the head-scratching correction that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was huddled with his staff “among” the bushes and not “in” them, as the Washington Post originally reported.
President Donald Trump’s decision to oust the FBI director prompted concerns over the future of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election, with some Democrats likening the move as “Nixonian.”
While there was some pushback to that characterization, Trump ended the week with a flurry of tweets that suggested there may be “tapes” of his conversations with Comey — something that conjures, well, the Nixon days. (Although, to be certain, Nixon wasn’t the only president that had White House recordings.)
And that was all before a new report from the Post on Monday that suggested shared highly-classified intel with Russian officials in a closed-door meeting the day after Comey’s firing”
Here are five important stories that didn’t make the screenplay being hashed out in Hollywood right now.
1. South Korea’s new president revives the “Sunshine Policy” of yesteryear to deal with North Korea
After corruption scandals led to the removal of Park Guen-hye, South Korea’s first president to be impeached in nearly 60 years, a snap election was held to replace her.
Last week, Moon Jae-in, 64, emerged victorious as the country’s newly elected president. The leader of the opposition Democratic party notably campaigned on the promise of adopting a more conciliatory approach to diplomacy with North Korea, which successfully tested a missile at the end of the week.
Unlike his predecessors, Moon favors a “Sunshine Policy,” reviving a strategy that condemns North Korean aggression but still aims for peaceful cooperation with its neighbor at a time when the Trump administration takes a more forceful stance. With Moon at the helm now, the pendulum of the country’s policy on North Korea has swung to the other side.
Shortly after being elected, Moon did denounce North Korea’s “ruthless dictatorial regime,” but added that South Korea ought to “embrace the North Korean people to achieve peaceful reunification one day.”
“To do that, we must recognize Kim Jong-un as their ruler and as our dialogue partner,” the president said. “The goal of sanctions must be to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.”
Why it’s important
Moon’s embrace of the “Sunshine Policy” revives a once-abandoned approach that was internally deemed a failure by the government seven years ago, Reuters reported then. And Park’s impeachment has eroded the conservative grasp on foreign policy, giving way to Moon and the liberals, which contrasts with the U.S.
Recall Vice President Mike Pence last month looking north from an observation post in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas and declaring that the “era of strategic patience is over.”
Will South Korea’s dovish approach gel with Washington’s tougher one? Or will it be like mixing oil with water?
Judy Woodruff speaks with David Kang of the University of Southern California about President-elect Moon Jae-in’s attitude toward North Korea and the potential for friction with the U.S.
“The fundamental, if unspoken, rule in relations between North Korea has always been the same,” writes The Atlantic’s S. Nathan Park. “Localized provocations will yield a response, but no one—not even the most saber-rattling of leaders—wants full-scale war.”
In a May 2 interview, Moon said he thought he and Trump were on the “same page.”
“President Trump uses strong rhetoric toward North Korea but, during the election campaign, he also said he could talk over a burger with Kim Jong Un,” he said. “I am for that kind of pragmatic approach to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.”
2. Five students allege Howard University mishandled rape cases on campus
Five students at Howard University who reported being raped on campus say the school mishandled their cases.
The new lawsuit has reignited the national debate over how to handle sexual assault at colleges and universities.
The five students, named as Jane Doe 1 to 5 in the suit, say they were raped between 2014 and 2016 at the school in Washington, D.C. — considered one of the more elite historically black universities in the country.
A special report in Buzzfeed News dives into the lawsuit, which claims Howard failed to adequately handle the rape allegations, either refusing to provide help to victims or taking weeks or months to respond.
The school declined to comment on the investigation to Buzzfeed.
Two of the victims, who accuse the same male student of sexual assault, say the university didn’t respond to their complaints until one of them took her story to Twitter, sparking protests.
The lawsuit claims a dean at the school told the victim “you embarrassed your family” by going public.
“This is an egregious case,” attorney Linda M. Correia, who is representing the students, told Buzzfeed News. “These young women are living on a campus where they have reached out for help from the school, and the passage of time is just compounding the harm that they feel. They should feel safe on their campus, safe in their classrooms, in their dorms, and Howard has not ensured that they do feel safe.”
Why it’s important
About 23 percent of all undergraduate women experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN). At historically black colleges and universities, about 14 percent of black undergraduate women reported a completed or attempted rape, according to a survey published in 2011 in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
For years, American colleges and universities have struggled with how to handle rape on campus. Yet, even after the U.S. Department of Education launched a civil rights investigation into dozens of schools for how they handled sexual violence cases — and several laws have targeted campus rape — how sexual assault is handled on campus can vary widely between schools.
For instance, in the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has awarded Howard more than $1 million to address sexual assault on campus, according to Buzzfeed. But last week’s lawsuit shows that even schools with grant money and infrastructure targeted at addressing the problem aren’t always equipped to follow through.
Advocates have worried Howard’s alleged mishandling of rape cases could dissuade others from coming forward: Already, for every black woman who reports her rape, at least 15 Black women decline to do the same, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report.
A report on HBCUs by the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women says Title IX coordinators — who are charged with ensuring that schools comply with laws that prohibit sexual discrimination — need more training on how to handle rapes on campus. Though it offers strategies on how to better respond to campus rape and improve campus culture, it’s not clear how many coordinators have the ability to follow through.
3. Cases of Hepatitis C have risen nearly 300 percent
Cases of Hepatitis C have soared nationwide, and young people who inject drugs are the most at-risk for contracting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between 2010 and 2015, incidence of hepatitis C rose almost 300 percent, researchers recently reported, and in 2015 alone, nearly 34,000 people were newly infected with the virus, adding to an estimated total of 3.5 million Americans. Once infected with the virus, a person’s liver can become dangerously — in some cases, fatally — inflamed if left untreated.
Why it’s important
The number of Americans with Hepatitis C has reached a 15-year high. In 2015, the disease killed 20,000 people — more than any other infectious disease reported to the CDC. While baby boomers made up three-quarters of total infections, the highest rate of new cases is among people ages 20 and 29 who inject drugs, leading officials to suggest this spike is linked with the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis.
New cases of Hepatitis C spread primarily through the use of dirty needles, from a mother to a child at birth, and through sexual contact without a latex condom. And the CDC report showed that while 17 states reported above-average incidence of Hepatitis C, only three states — Massachusetts, Washington and New Mexico — allowed people infected with the virus to receive treatment under Medicaid, and enacted comprehensive laws to help prevent the virus’s spread.
4. The MP3 is dead
The creators of the MP3 declared the audio format officially dead last week.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, an arm of a German research institution that funded the creation of the MP3 in the 1980s, announced on their website that the “licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.”
The MP3’s birthday was on July 14, 1995, when its creators attached a file extension to the audio format so it could live on the internet.
Why it’s important
The MP3 was a compression algorithm that was invented to encode audio and video into a digital file small enough to, initially, transfer data over telephone lines, NPR reported.
The audio format, didn’t immediately catch on. In fact, as NPR detailed in a story on the history of the MP3, its creators — ironically — declared it dead back in 1995.
Its use climbed when people realized the technology could be used to turn their music CDs into MP3s onto their personal hard drives.
But it was eventually replaced.
The “Advanced Audio Coding” (AAC) format, which was also created by Fraunhofer, is now the go-to file type for music downloads. Bernhard Grill of the Fraunhofer Institute told NPR that AAC is “more efficient than MP3 and offers a lot more functionality.”
AAC also corrects a flaw of the MP3, NPR reported.
“The engineers who developed the MP3 were working with incomplete information about how our brains process sonic information, and so the MP3 itself was working on false assumptions about how holistically we hear,” NPR’s Andrew Flanagan wrote. “As psychoacoustic research has evolved, so has the technology that we use to listen. New audio formats and products, with richer information and that better address mobile music streaming, are arriving,” he added.
5. Toronto scientists discover new dinosaur that resembles a particular villain from “Ghostbusters”
The Royal Ontario Museum has acquired a new species of dinosaur known as the Ankylosaur — a horned, club-tailed species with an uncanny resemblance to Zuul, one of the monstrous villains from “Ghostbusters.”
Scientists officially deemed the skeleton the “Zuul crurivastor” in celebration of the antagonist from the 1984 classic. The 75-million-year-old bones were acquired last year, when it was excavated from the Judith River Formation in Hill County, Montana, The Los Angeles Times reported. (The formation is home to some of the first dinosaurs ever discovered in North America, according to the Royal Ontario Museum).
Researchers said the skeleton, known as an ankylosaur, is well preserved, with a complete skull, tail club and soft tissues, CBS News reported.
Like the fictional monster Zuul, the plant-eating dinosaur has a short, rounded snout with stark horns behind the eyes, according to the museum. During its life, the dinosaur — close to the size of a white rhinoceros —
could have been approximately 20 feet long and weighed almost 5,500 pounds.
“I’ve been working on ankylosaurs for years,” Dr. Victoria Arbour, of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, said in a statement. “The spikes running all the way down Zuul’s tail were a fantastic surprise to me – like nothing I’ve ever seen in a North American ankylosaur.”
Why it’s important
Dinosaurs may be extinct, but this discovery joins a whole slew of other important recent discoveries around the world. Take, for example, the discovery of a 110 million-year-old fossil of the plant-eating dinosaur known as a nodosaur, unearthed in 2011 from the oil sands of Alberta.
Yet another discovery in May in Japan revealed an eight-meter-long Hadrosaurid, a creature the country deemed the largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton to ever be discovered within the region, The Japan Times reported.
And this particular Ankylosaur find, Arbour told The LA Times, depicts remarkable diversity within the age of dinosaurs. Arbour said this new species adds to further evidence of more hammer-tailed creatures than previously believed, specifically within North America.
“That kind of matches up a bit more with what we see in the horned dinosaurs and the duck-billed dinosaurs, where there’s really high species diversity in the twilight of the age of dinosaurs,” Arbour said. “So they were doing really well at that period … and this particular dinosaur filled in a little bit of a gap in that record.”
Paleontologists are currently in the process of extricating the fossil from large chunks of rock — a process that will take a few years, Arbour told the Times.