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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nicola Slawson

First Thing: Pentagon leaks linked to young gun enthusiast employee – report

Aerial view of the Pentagon building
There are now reportedly photos of 300 classified documents linked to the Pentagon leaks, three times the original number. Photograph: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Good morning.

The man responsible for the leak of hundreds of classified Pentagon documents is reported to be a young, racist gun enthusiast who worked on a military base, and who was seeking to impress two dozen fellow members of an internet chat group.

The Washington Post interviewed a teenage member of the group, who described the man, referred to by the initials “OG”, from their online correspondence, and shared photographs and videos. The Post also viewed a video of a man identified as OG at a shooting range with a large rifle.

“He yells a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target,” the report said. OG told fellow members of the internet group that he worked on a military base, which was not named in the report, where his job involved viewing large amounts of classified information.

The leaked documents have laid bare secrets about Ukraine’s preparations for a spring counteroffensive, US spying on allies such as Ukraine, South Korea and Israel, and the tensions between Washington and allied capitals over arming Kyiv.

  • Why did he have security clearance? There is increasing evidence that the leak was not an intelligence operation by a state actor aiming to discredit the US, but more likely the consequence of a Pentagon policy of granting top secret security clearances to huge numbers of service members, civilians and contractors. The number of employees and contractors in the entire US government with top secret clearance is about 1.25 million.

World Bank staff were told to give special treatment to son of Trump official

David Malpass speaks after Donald Trump announced his candidacy to lead the World Bank in February 2019.
David Malpass speaks after Donald Trump announced his candidacy to lead the World Bank in February 2019. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

World Bank staff were apparently told to give preferential treatment to the son of a high-ranking Trump administration official after the US Treasury threw its support behind a $13bn (£10bn) funding increase for the organisation, a leaked recording suggests.

Shared with the Guardian by a whistleblower, the recording of a 2018 staff meeting suggests colleagues were encouraged by a senior manager to curry favour with the son of David Malpass, who is now president of the World Bank but at the time was serving in the US Treasury under Donald Trump.

During the recording, which has left the Washington-based organisation facing questions over standards of governance, staff refer to 22-year-old Robert Malpass as a “prince” and “important little fellow”, who could go “running to daddy” if things went wrong.

Campaigners said the case could undermine the World Bank’s mission, which includes combating the erosion of public trust in civic institutions by promoting good governance.

  • What did the World Bank say? The World Bank said it could not confirm the contents of the recording, but added it was “both false and absurd” to suggest that there was any connection between an entry-level hire and the multibillion-dollar capital increase.

Dianne Feinstein vows to return to her post as Democrats call for her to resign

Dianne Feinstein leaves a classified briefing on China, at the Capitol in Washington
Last month, Feinstein announced that she would not seek re-election next year. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the oldest member of the upper chamber of the US Congress, has said she plans on serving out her term despite growing calls for her to resign.

Feinstein, 89, has not voted in Congress since February and has been away from Capitol Hill after being hospitalized for shingles treatment in March. “I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco,” she said.

The statement comes after Democratic representative Ro Khanna tweeted on Wednesday: “It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty.

“While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people,” he added.

  • Do others agree with Khanna? Yes. Democratic representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota said: “I agree with @RoKhanna. Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable. But I believe it’s now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet.”

In other news …

Jamie Foxx attends the premiere of the film Creed III in London
Jamie Foxx was shooting a film in Atlanta when he was taken ill; his daughter Corinne posted: ‘He is on already his way to recovery’. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
  • The family of Jamie Foxx revealed yesterday evening that the actor had been hospitalised in Atlanta after a “medical complication”. “Luckily due to quick action and great care he is already on his way to recovery, Foxx’s daughter, Corinne Foxx, posted in a statement on Instagram.

  • The judge overseeing the $1.6bn defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems yesterday sanctioned Fox News, handing the ballot-machine company a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of trial, a person present during yesterday’s court hearing said.

  • The launch by North Korea of what could be a new type of ballistic missile this morning caused fear and confusion in Japan after a government-run alert system warned residents that the projectile could fall on or close to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

  • Three alleged victims of sexual and physical assault by Andrew Tate are pursuing a civil claim for damages against him. The three women pursuing the civil proceedings, who are now in their late 20s and early 30s, allege the offences took place between 2013 and 2016 while Tate was living in the UK.

  • The UK royal family appear to have appropriated two sets of stamps that were official state gifts, incorporating them into an extraordinarily valuable private stamp collection that King Charles inherited from his mother. The gifts, a mint collection of historical Canadian stamps and a rare set of stamps from Laos, were formally given to the royal family as state gifts.

Stat of the day: South Korea to give $490 allowance to reclusive youths to help them leave the house

A resident shines a torch from their apartment in Busan, South Korea
A person shines a torch from their apartment in Busan, South Korea. An estimated 350,000 South Koreans aged between 19 and 39 are lonely or secluded. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea is to offer reclusive youths a monthly living allowance of 650,000 won ($490) in order to encourage them out of their homes, as part of a new measure passed by the ministry of gender equality and family. The measure also offers education, job and health support. The condition is known as hikikomori, a Japanese term that roughly translated means “to pull back”. The government wants to try to make it easier for those experiencing it to leave the house to go to school, university or work. About 350,000 people between the ages of 19 and 39 in South Korea are considered lonely or isolated – about 3% of that age group – according to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

Don’t miss this: Mona Chalabi’s datablog – why America’s most popular flower ‘never goes out of style’

Poster showing annual flower sales
The tulip is a perennial hit – the most-sold flower in the US, with one sold for every two people in 2020 Illustration: Mona Chalabi/The Guardian

Tulips are the most-sold flower in the US, according to the latest USDA report. More than 175m tulip stems were sold in 2020 – that’s one tulip for every two people. Although other flower species sell in huge numbers (83m gerbera daisies, 69m lilies), none comes close to the tulip, whose name comes from a Turkish word for turban. According to flower historians, it’s hard to nail down a time when tulips weren’t a big hit in the US market. Some of it is the variety (so many colors are available as well as different petal types) and some of it is down to the availability of tulips (you can buy them pretty much year-round). But maybe the easiest explanation is simply price. “Let’s be real – tulips have always been a hit and are a classic that will never go out of style,” says the horticulturist and historian Abra Lee.

Last Thing: anti-rat activist hired to control New York City’s pest population

New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, introduces Kathleen Corradi, the city’s first director of rodent mitigation.
New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, introduces Kathleen Corradi, the city’s first director of rodent mitigation. Photograph: Bobby Caina Calvan/AP

Every New York City mayor has waged war – and mostly lost – against one of humanity’s most cunning and enduring foe: rattus norvegicus. But has the city’s vilest enemy, better known as the common brown rat, finally met its match? Mayor Eric Adams introduced a former elementary school teacher and anti-rat activist as his new “rat czar” yesterday. Officially, Kathleen Corradi, the mayor’s new hire, will be known as the director of rodent mitigation. Corradi is tasked with battling the potentially millions of rats lurking in myriad urban nooks and crannies, subway tunnels and empty lots. Hers is a new job, which the city advertised with a help-wanted ad seeking applicants who are “bloodthirsty”, possess “killer instincts” and could commit to the “wholesale slaughter” of rats.

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