Aunt of 4-year-old girl shot in Times Square recounts terrifying ordeal

The aunt of the 4-year-old girl who was struck when a gunman opened fire in Times Square recalled the moment the family realized the tot had been hit as they ran for their lives — but said the “tough” little girl stayed calm.

Little Skye Martinez was waiting in line with her mom, 16-year-old aunt Danae Romero, and other relatives to shop for toys at Line Friends on Saturday afternoon when a gunman arguing with three other people opened fire in the crowd, striking her and two other bystanders.

“She didn’t feel anything. Even when we noticed when we were at the corner, she wasn’t crying,” Romero told The Post on Sunday.

Romero, who had also joined for the shopping trip, said she had overheard a man shout at someone to come over before shots rang out at the tourist hub.

“Once they went over was when they started shooting, so we ran and didn’t notice that my niece got hit until we were at the corner and we could see that she was bleeding,” she said.

Romero said that her niece, who was hit in the left leg, managed to stay calm.

“She’s pretty tough, I guess. She’s always been happy. There aren’t many times when she cries and stuff,” she said.

Romero said Skye is still at the hospital, where she’s in “stable condition.”

“She’s doing alright. It’s a stressful situation,” Romero told The Post.

But she said the shooting has left her sister, Skye’s mother, reeling.

“She’s upset. Nobody knew what was going to happen and she was like, why did it have to be her [daughter] because she’s 4 years old,” Romero said.

Romero called on the police to track down the gunman responsible for the shooting.

“Please actually catch him. He’s out there and you don’t know why he did it,” she said.

“What if he ends up hurting some more people? ‘Cause if he’s able to do it in a place where there’s so much people like Times Square and not care, what’s going to stop him from doing it again?”

Reached by phone on Sunday, Skye’s mother, Sonia Romero, declined to comment on the shooting.

“Our priority is taking care of my daughter,” she told The Post.


Trump DoJ seized Washington Post reporters’ phone records, paper says

The phone-call records of three reporters with the Washington Post were secretly obtained by officials with Donald Trump’s justice department over a period of three months in 2017, the newspaper reported.

The communication records, which date from 15 April to 31 July of that year, include who called who and when, and how long the call lasted, but do not relay what was said on the calls, the paper said.

The records were obtained under a court order at a time when the reporters were looking into intelligence intercepts indicating that soon-to-be attorney general Jeff Sessions had discussed the Trump campaign with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016.

The Washington Post said its reporters – Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous – had recently been notified by the justice department of a court order to obtain “non-content communication records”. A request to obtain their emails was denied.

“We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” said the Post’s acting executive editor Cameron Barr in a statement.

“The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the first amendment.”

The revelation shows just how anxious the Trump administration was over leaks around claims of Russian interference.

At a news conference in August 2017, a month after the records’ subpoena expired, Sessions held a news conference in which called on government leakers to curb the practice.

The call came after Trump had publicly called out his attorney general for being “weak” on pursuing leakers. Noting that leak investigations had tripled in number since the Obama administration, he declared: “This culture of leaking must stop.”

In a statement, the justice department said: “While rare, the department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

It added: “The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”


Rio drug gun battle leaves 25 dead, police facing global backlash

RIO DE JANEIRO — A bloody, hourslong gun battle in a Rio de Janeiro slum echoed into Friday, with authorities saying the police mission successfully eliminated two dozen criminals, while residents and activists claimed human rights abuses.

It was just after sunrise Thursday when dozens of officers from Rio de Janeiro state’s civil police stormed Jacarezinho, a working-class favela in the city’s northern zone. They were targeting drug traffickers from one of Brazil’s most notorious criminal organizations, Comando Vermelho, and the bodies piled up quickly.

When the fighting stopped, there were 25 dead — one police officer and 24 people described by the police as “criminals.”

Rio’s moniker of “Marvelous City” can often seem a cruel irony in the favelas, given their stark poverty, violent crime and subjugation to drug traffickers or militias. But even here, Thursday’s clash was a jarring anomaly that analysts declared one of the city’s deadliest police operations ever.

The bloodshed also laid bare Brazil’s perennial divide over whether, as a common local saying goes, “a good criminal is a dead criminal.” Fervent law-and-order sentiment fueled the successful presidential run in 2018 by Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain whose home is in Rio. He drew support from much of society with his calls to diminish legal constraints on officers’ use of lethal force against criminals.

Felipe Curi, a detective in Rio’s civil police, denied there were any executions.

“There were no suspects killed. They were all traffickers or criminals who tried to take the lives of our police officers and there was no other alternative,” he said at a news conference.

Curi said some suspects had sought refuge in residents’ homes, and six of them were arrested. Police also seized 16 pistols, six rifles, a submachine gun, 12 grenades and a shotgun, he said.

Bolsonaro’s political rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said any operation that produces two dozen deaths doesn’t qualify as public security.

“That is the absence of the government that offers education and jobs, the cause of a great deal of violence,” said da Silva, who is widely expected to mount a challenge to Bolsonaro’s reelection bid next year.

About 50 residents of Jacarezinho poured into a narrow street to follow members of the state legislature’s human rights commission who conducted an inspection following the shootouts. They shouted “Justice!” while clapping their hands. Some raised their right fists into the air.

The Brazilian divisions of international advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged public prosecutors to thoroughly investigate the operation.

“Even if the victims were suspected of criminal association, which has not been proven, summary executions of this kind are entirely unjustifiable,” said Jurema Werneck, Amnesty’s executive director in Brazil.

The Rio state prosecutors’ office said in a statement to the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that it would investigate accusations of violence, adding that the case required a probe that is independent from police.

Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a ruling last year prohibiting police operations in Rio’s favelas during the pandemic unless “absolutely exceptional.”

The order came after police fatally shot a 14-year-old in a home where there was no indication of any illegal activity. The teen’s death sparked a Brazilian iteration of Black Lives Matter protests held across the city’s metropolitan area for weeks.


Twitter suspends Trump ‘From the Desk’ account, despite no link to Team Trump

An account pulled from Twitter for appearing to belong to former President Donald Trump’s newly launched communications platform was not created by the ex-commander-in-chief’s team, The Post has learned.

The 45th president on Tuesday revealed his new website, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” which allows him to provide his thoughts in Twitter-style posts that can then be shared on social media sites from which he has been banned.

The site is meant to serve as “a place to speak freely and safely,” a statement from Team Trump said. The team is working on developing the site further to give him the ability to communicate directly with his followers.

An account appearing to belong to the former president’s new platform, @DJTDesk, emerged on the social media site shortly after — but a source close to Team Trump told The Post that the account “was not created by anyone on President Trump’s team.”

Still, by Wednesday evening, Twitter had suspended the account.

Reached for comment by The Post, including questions on the validity of the account, Twitter stood by the decision despite the identity of the user remaining unknown and seemingly not connected to the former president.

“As stated in our ban evasion policy, we’ll take enforcement action on accounts whose apparent intent is to replace or promote content affiliated with a suspended account,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

The platform permanently banned the then-president following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

At the time, Twitter defended its suspension as “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

The company’s continued position that it will not consider allowing him back on its platform, even if he were to return to public office, has rubbed many the wrong way, including some of Trump’s political opponents.

Facebook, meanwhile, ordered an indefinite ban on the president.

In the three months since banning the then-president, Facebook deferred to its Oversight Board to make a final call on letting Trump return to its platforms.

On Wednesday morning, the board announced it would be upholding the ban but said an indefinite suspension of Trump’s account was inappropriate and the company has six months to specify new penalties.

Trump slammed the decision in a statement — which couldn’t be shared on social media — in which he said that the companies censoring him “must pay a political price.”

“What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before,” he said in an emailed statement.

“The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process,” he said.

In the final month of the heated 2020 presidential race, The Post revealed a trove of emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop that raised questions about then-candidate Joe Biden’s ties to his son’s foreign business ventures in Ukraine and China– which resulted in The Post’s Twitter account being immediately locked and links to the story disabled on the platform.

The water-damaged MacBook Pro was dropped off for repair at a Delaware computer shop in April 2019, but the individual who dropped it off never returned to pick it up.

It was seized by the FBI in December of that year.

Immediately following the release of The Post’s exposé, Twitter demanded The Post delete six tweets that linked to the stories based on files from the abandoned laptop in order to regain account access, finally caving and unlocking the account after a two-week stalemate.

During that time, The Post refused to remove the tweets and actually gained followers.

At a Senate hearing just two weeks after The Post’s return to the site, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey conceded that the company made “a mistake” in its actions.

“We recognize it as a mistake that we made, both in terms of the intention of the policy and also the enforcement action of not allowing people to share it publicly or privately,” said Dorsey, responding to a question from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about the forced media blackout.

Asked again in March at a Congressional hearing on misinformation and social media about the matter, Dorsey reiterated his assertion that the move was a “total mistake.”

“It was literally just a process error. This was not against them in any particular way,” Dorsey told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“If we remove a violation we require people to correct it,” he added. “We changed that based on their not wanting to delete that tweet, which I completely agree with. I see it. But it is something we learn.”

Originally Published on NY Post
By Emily Jacobs
May 6, 2021 at 9:13am


UW study: True global COVID death toll is more than double the official toll

SEATTLE – The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than twice as many people around the world as the official death counts show, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The official global death toll as of Thursday stands at about 3.26 million, but the new analysis found that COVID-19 has actually caused about 6.9 million deaths worldwide.

“As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” said Dr. Chris Murray, director of the UW institute. “Understanding the true number of COVID-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans.”

The updated analysis shows that the United States has had more COVID-19 deaths to-date than any other country, a total of more than 905,000.

By region, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia were hardest hit in terms of total deaths. This figure only includes deaths caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, not deaths caused by the pandemic’s disruption to health care systems and communities, Murray said.

The official death toll undercounts the true toll mostly because many deaths from COVID-19 go unreported. Countries only report deaths that occur in hospitals or in patients with a confirmed infection. In many places, weak health reporting systems and low access to health care magnify this challenge.

The UW institute’s analysis found that the largest number of unreported deaths occurred in countries that have had the largest epidemics to-date. However, some countries with relatively smaller epidemics saw a large increase in the death rate when accounting for unreported deaths. This analysis shows that they may be at greater risk for a wider epidemic than previously thought.

“Many countries have devoted exceptional effort to measuring the pandemic’s toll, but our analysis shows how difficult it is to accurately track a new and rapidly spreading infectious disease,” Murray said. “We hope that today’s report will encourage governments to identify and address gaps in their COVID-19 mortality reporting, so that they can more accurately direct pandemic resources.”

According to the new analysis, the countries with the highest COVID death tolls are the United States, with an estimated 905,289 fatalities; India, with 654,395; Mexico, with 617,127; Brazil, with 595,903; and the Russian Federation, with 593,610.

However, the official death tolls in those countries are significantly lower. In the U.S., the official toll is 574,043; in India, 221,181; in Mexico, 217,694; in Brazil, 408,680; and in the Russian Federation, 109,334.


Gary Vaynerchuk: These three social platforms are a ‘requirement’ for small businesses to succeed

As more of the country gets vaccinated and stores continue to reopen and operate under less Covid restrictions, small business owners are poised to see revenue gains this summer. But amid intensifying competition for consumer dollars, the lion’s share of the spending will go to entrepreneurs who know how to effectively create content on social media, according to serial entrepreneur and media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk. The key to a smart social media advertising strategy, according to Gary Vee, is to think more like a publisher and less like a salesman.

“The reason so many businesses struggle with social media is because they put out content that’s in their best interest, instead of the person on the other side,” Vaynerchuk said at the CNBC Small Business Playbook virtual event on Tuesday. “Try to put out content that educates instead of sells. You start becoming more of a publisher [who’s focused on] editorial, than you do a salesman. That simple rule is probably the best that I’ve seen people use to become successful,” the CEO of VaynerMedia told CNBC’s Seema Mody.

Specifically, he cites Facebook, Instagram and TikTok as a “requirement” for small businesses looking to hedge their advertising spend. “It’s not just about organic, it’s about ads. You’ve got to run media on these three platforms in a demo that comes to your shop or uses your service,” Vaynerchuk said, adding that small businesses should be spending “as much as possible” on those platforms.

“You’ve got to test and learn, test and learn … then you find an ad that works for your business, that’s ROI [return on investment] positive, and you pour lighter fluid on it. It’s like how you get better with your health. You work out and you eat healthy. You eat healthy and you work out. And you do it every day. The formula is simple — the execution is hard.”

Vaynerchuk’s advice comes after a year of small business closures across the U.S. and the world. Even amid improving economic conditions and vaccination rates in the U.S., there has been a continued wave of bankruptcies which in some regions were back near peak levels in early 2021, according to a report from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable released in April and based on data through February. Still, more small business owners across the U.S. currently describe business conditions as good, according to the second quarter CNBC | Survey Monkey Small Business Survey, which saw confidence among business owners rise slightly.

“Everything in business is hard. It’s hard to find a good campaign, it’s hard to find good employees, it’s hard to do many things,” Vaynerchuk, an early investor in companies like Twitter, Uber, Snap and freshly public crypto exchange Coinbase, said of the current landscape. “But if you put out enough good content, you will attract an audience because the algorithms, or attention, is there for you for free.”


Miami-Dade unveils new program to support, empower small business owners

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Small businesses in Miami-Dade County received a show of support Wednesday as Mayor Daniella Levine Cava unveiled a brand new program designed to support and empower small business owners.

“We’re really about lifting up our small businesses. This is the backbone of our economy,” she said.

The new initiative called Strive 305 provides more resources for small business owners by creating an environment where they can collaborate and learn.

“We’ve got technical assistance. We’ve got a hub where they can learn new skills, it’s virtual. We’re also having an accelerator for the small businesses to work together,” Levine Cava said.

The mayor made the announcement while attending the grand opening of Perfect Salon Suites at the Mall of Americas.

“As you know, the beauty industry, it got hit really hard during the pandemic,” Perfect Salon Suites co-owner Kemyana Jones-Bey said.

Jones-Bey and fellow co-owner Anne Johnson-Bey say the new program will be very beneficial to businesses like theirs, especially after so many storefronts were forced to close due to the pandemic.

“It absolutely excited me because as small businesses, especially in the beauty industry, we did not necessarily get the same incentives that some others (did). Being salon suite owners, we don’t have a lot of employees,” Johnson-Bey said.

“We know that the covid pandemic has really put a lot of them back, but a lot of them have learned to adapt and part of what we do is help them to retool, re-gear and be ready for the new economy,” the mayor said.


PS5 designer helps Nike with latest Paul George sneakers

Nike, Sony, and basketball player Paul George have collaborated on another pair of sneakers, the PG 5, with help from PS5 designer Yujin Morisawa. According to Sony, “the colors of the shoe are heavily inspired by the industrial design of the PS5” with the PlayStation’s signature circle, square, cross, and triangle shapes woven into the materials like a DualSense controller. There’s also a PlayStation logo on the tongue of the right shoe, while the left’s tongue has Paul George’s PG logo.

The release comes a little over two years after Nike and PlayStation’s last sneaker collaboration, the PG 2.5, which drew inspiration from the design of the original PlayStation console. Earlier that year, the two companies worked together on the PG2, which were inspired by the PS4.

The PG 5 shoes are going on sale in “select regions” on May 14th, and they’ll arrive in North America on May 27th priced at $120, according to Nike’s site. There’s no word on how many pairs Nike will release, but given how limited its previous run of PlayStation sneakers was, we’re expecting these to sell out fast. Fitting, given how hard it still is to find PS5 consoles in stock.

If you’re interested, Sony says you should keep your eye on the Nike SNKRS app or local Nike website for more information on release dates and availability.


Huntington Beach latest to create non-police team to handle mental health, homeless issues

Come summer, Huntington Beach is expected to launch a mobile crisis response team to handle a variety of mental health and behavior-related calls for service, rather than dispatching police when no crime, violence, or event involving a weapon is unfolding.

The two-person civilian team — an emergency medical technician and a clinically trained counselor — is touted as the first such city program of its kind in Orange County. The city’s HOPE (Helping People Out Everywhere) team will focus on mental health issues, reaching beyond the homeless population and serving all Huntington Beach residents.

“This could be someone living in a gated neighborhood, or a homeless individual who is suffering, and everything in between,” Huntington Beach Police Chief Julian Harvey said.

Huntington Beach is part of a growing trend of cities and others shifting non-criminal crisis intervention away from law enforcement.

In March, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced the formation of a Behavioral Health Bureau to provide deputies with additional training in behavioral and crisis intervention. Once trained, those deputies will work alongside county mental health clinicians and social workers. In January, Anaheim launched the unarmed Community Care Response Team of caseworkers to help homeless people living outdoors.

In Huntington Beach, the HOPE team will handle a variety of situations, including homelessness, drug and alcohol-related issues, non-violent disputes involving family members or neighbors, and calls about people in crisis as a result of mental illness.

The city will host a public town hall on 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, via the Huntington Beach Facebook and YouTube accounts. During the town hall, residents can learn more about the HOPE project and Be Well OC, which is overseeing the one-year pilot under a $1.5 million contract.

The program represents a new partnership between the city and Be Well, the public-private entity that earlier this year began providing comprehensive on-site crisis intervention and longer-term residential treatment for people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. With case management also built into the Huntington Beach program, people who interact with the HOPE team might end up at the Be Well campus in Orange.

Harvey stressed in a phone interview last week that the HOPE program does not represent any “de-funding” of the police department. Instead, it will supplement the efforts of homeless liaison officers and broaden help for citizens dealing with mental and behavioral health crises. For too long, Harvey said, police have been the default agency to handle such calls, and that the only available places to take many of those people were hospital emergency rooms.

“If it’s not a violent incident or involving weapons or clear criminality, there really is no reason for us to be there,” Harvey said.

The HOPE team could mean better outcomes for people in crisis. Harvey added the new team also would free up officers for traditional police work if they don’t have to spend hours taking someone to an emergency room and waiting for their disposition. It also might reduce tension that can arise between police and the people they are meant to serve, sometimes leading to deadly consequences.

“They see us in uniform, and it can be provocative,” he said, referencing what sometimes happens when police respond to social service-related calls.

“It changes the dynamic unnecessarily.”
New program, old model

City Manager Oliver Chi is credited with laying the groundwork for the program. In April, when the Huntington Beach City Council approved the program on a 7-0 vote, Chi told council members the HOPE team could put the city on the cutting edge of better serving its citizens.

“It’s not often that we get a chance to be part of a new effort that could radically change the context of how we respond to ongoing service demands in the community,” said Chi, who took over as top administrator in Huntington Beach nearly two years ago.

Slightly more than half of the program’s funding — $825,000 — comes from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in March, and the rest comes the Police Department Development Impact Fee Fund and the city’s Restricted Restitution Fund.

The model for the HOPE team is a mobile crisis response program in Eugene, Ore., known by the acronym CAHOOTS, for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, that’s been credited with saving lives and money. For nearly 30 years, CAHOOTS has been staffed 24/7 by clinicians, not police, taking calls routed by 9-1-1 dispatch workers who’ve been trained to determine which calls should and shouldn’t go to police. The CAHOOTS intervention teams travel in specially equipped vans with their logo on the sides, a process that’s expected to be copied in Huntington Beach.

“It will be like the dispatcher saying, ‘We understand your situation and we’re sending HOPE out there,’” said Marshall Moncrief, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Mind OC who oversees the work of Be Well.

There’s no firm date yet for the start of the Huntington Beach pilot program.

Moncrief, who lives in Huntington Beach and once served as director of neuro-behavioral health at Hoag Presbyterian Hospital, became familiar with CAHOOTS because he frequently visited Eugene, Ore., where his daughter attended college. Be Well has hired two people to supervise the HOPE team, including an experienced EMT who previously was part of the CAHOOTS program. Their work will be hands on.

“They won’t be sitting in an office somewhere,” Moncrief said. “They’ll be on that van, out living this with their team.”
Beyond Surf City

Be Well’s plan is to start with limited hours and gradually ramp up. Decisions on how to develop the service will be based on data, and the program could expand beyond Huntington Beach into other communities in Orange County, Moncrief said.

The HOPE team also might assist police when they contact survivors about a loved one’s death. “They might go with them to provide emotional support to the family,” Moncrief said.

The team will provide basic first aid, and transport homeless people to get services at the Huntington Beach Navigation Center. They also will be ready to guide people seeking help with an addiction to appropriate resources.

Michael Wright, a former EMT who now runs the nonprofit Wound Walk OC, a five-year-old program in which Wright and other volunteers provide basic health care and information to homeless people staying in parks and other outdoor locations, believes the program might work. Wright, who lives in Santa Ana, brought his triage to Huntington Beach in March, and is glad to see the city embrace the idea of decriminalizing homelessness and switching to a crisis prevention model for mental health care.

“I am in LOVE with this idea,” Wright wrote in an email. “Wound Walk is grateful that the City of Huntington Beach is looking to bring the kind of trauma informed care we practice to more people, more consistently.”


With no capacity limits businesses want more guidance on latest rollback

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As New York lifts capacity restrictions for businesses, many are calling it a welcome sign of an end in sight to the pandemic. However limitations in spaces means the struggle is not over for some.

The tide is turning against COVID-19 and capacity limits will soon be no more.

Starting May 19 gyms, restaurants, museums, theaters, retail, hair salons and more will be allowed to have 100% of customers back in again.

“We’re excited it seems like the needle is going in the right direction,” said Chris Gross, Capital Region Fitness Develop Manager for Orangetheory Fitness.

But all businesses must still follow the six feet rule of distancing. Gross said for gyms these restrictions limit them from actually reaching full capacity.

“With having a boutique fitness, we are still going to have spacing limitations. We can only fit so many people in there especially with the six feet between each station, and each member,” said he.

“I know schools right now can be three feet apart I don’t understand why restaurants can’t be. We have been doing everything we are supposed to. They have to give us a little bit more to get back to normal,” said Frannie Agostine, the owner of Red Front in Troy.

Agostine said eliminating the capacity restrictions doesn’t help restaurants and other businesses get back to business as usual.

“75% changed nothing, and 100% changes nothing until we can do away without the social distancing guidelines. A lot of us can’t afford to just keep buying things to try to stay alive, and were barely surviving as it is,” said she.

Alexandria Cook, owner of Alexandria’s Beauty Salon in Latham said they are awaiting guidelines before more clients can fill their chairs.

“I’m hoping that we can up our hours, get more clients in here, and hopefully that means sitting them next to each other and actually being at full capacity,” said Cook.