First Thing: Alex Jones to pay $4.1m over false Sandy Hook claims | US news | #schoolshooting

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The jury in Alex Jones’s defamation trial on Thursday ordered the far-right conspiracy theorist to pay $4.1m in damages over his repeated claims that the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.

Jurors in Austin, Texas, gave their verdict after deliberating for about one hour on Wednesday and seven hours on Thursday at the end of a nine-day trial. The verdict levied against Jones was far below the $150m or more the plaintiffs had requested jurors award them. In a statement on behalf of the parents of a six-year-old Sandy Hook victim whose lawsuit set the trial in motion, the attorney Mark Bankston said: “Mr Jones … will not sleep easy tonight.”

Bankston said his clients, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, were “thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr Jones’s money to good use”.

  • Is this the end of the case? No. In a separate phase on Friday, jurors are to determine whether Jones owes any punitive damages in addition to the compensation he was ordered to pay.

  • What other problems is Jones facing? The congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol has requested that Bankston provide the panel with the texts from Jones, a prominent supporter of former president Donald Trump. A similar trial with other parents from Sandy Hook also looms for Jones in Connecticut.

Taiwan crisis: China begins second day of military exercises in face of US condemnation

Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calls on reporters as national security council spokesperson John Kirby answers questions about China’s use of ballistic missiles. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

The US has condemned China’s launch of ballistic missiles around Taiwan during major military exercises as an “overreaction”, as multiple Chinese ships and planes again crossed the median line on Friday.

The aggressive military displays by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began on Thursday in response to the US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and have raised tensions across east Asia.

Hundreds of PLA air force and navy craft are involved in the exercises across six zones surrounding Taiwan and encroaching into its territorial seas. At least 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles were fired near or over Taiwan on Thursday, while dozens of warplanes and ships have made crossings over the median line, an unofficial border in the Taiwan strait that is one of the world’s busiest transport routes.

This morning, Taiwan’s defense ministry announced that multiple PLA ships and planes had crossed the median line during the morning. The ministry said it had dispatched aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.

  • How worried should we be about military conflict? Experts agree that neither the US nor China has the appetite for the tension to escalate to war. According to Justin Bassi, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, China’s military exercises will probably be calibrated to avoid escalation from the US.

Democrats secure breakthrough with Kyrsten Sinema on climate bill

Kyrsten Sinema gives evidence
Securing Sinema’s support was pivotal for Democrats in the evenly divided Senate. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Democratic leaders say they have reached an agreement on the party’s major climate and economic bill with Kyrsten Sinema – the centrist Democrat whose opposition remained a hurdle to passing the most ambitious US climate legislation yet.

The support of Sinema, a former member of the Green party who has evolved into one of Congress’s most conservative Democrats, was crucial to the passage of the bill, which tackles energy, environment, health and tax measures. Its success is seen as the Democratic party’s most substantive chance to deliver domestic policy progress before the midterm elections.

Backing from all 50 Democratic senators will be needed to pass any legislation in the evenly divided Senate given the party’s narrow majority and Republican resistance to acting on the climate crisis.

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said lawmakers had achieved a compromise “that I believe will receive the support” of all Democrats in the chamber. His party needs unanimity to move the measure through the 50-50 Senate, along with the vice-president Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.

  • What has Sinema, the Arizona senator seen as the pivotal vote, said? In a statement, she said she had agreed to 11th-hour changes in the measure’s tax and energy provisions and was ready to “move forward” on the bill.

In other news …

A large picture of Breonna Taylor
A man pays tribute to a memorial to Breonna Taylor following the announcement that four police officers have been charged. Photograph: Amira Karaoud/Reuters
  • The US Department of Justice on Thursday brought civil rights charges against four current and former Louisville police officers for their roles in the shooting in 2020 of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed in her home, a case that stirred national protests over police brutality.

  • The family of a Los Angeles man detained in Venezuela this year is appealing to the US government to help secure his release, fearing he could be held long term as a political bargaining chip. Eyvin Hernández, a 44-year-old lawyer, was arrested on 31 March near the Colombia-Venezuela border.

  • Kevin Spacey has lost his appeal to have a $31m (£25.5m) arbitration award to the producers of House of Cards overturned. In November, the Hollywood actor was ordered to pay the sum to MCR following “explosive” allegations of sexual misconduct involving young crew members working on the production.

  • Albert Woodfox, who is thought to have been held in solitary confinement longer than any individual in US history, having survived 43 years in a 6ft x 9ft cell in one of America’s most brutal prisons, has died aged 75. His lawyers and brother said he had died from complications caused by Covid.

  • A British woman has been left partially paralysed after being gored by a bison that tossed her 15ft into the air in a US nature reserve. Amelia Dean, 19, was attacked by a large male American bison while hiking with a friend through Custer State Park, South Dakota, seven weeks ago.

Don’t miss this: how the Astroworld tragedy changed gigs for ever

Billie Eilish on stage
Billie Eilish at Coachella. The singer is one of many who have recently paused gigs to maintain crowd safety. Photograph: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

The show must go on – except when it shouldn’t. In 2022, scarcely a week goes by without a major artist stopping a gig for safety reasons, such as preventing crowd surges or alerting the medical team. In July, Adele stopped her Hyde Park show four times to help overheating fans, and Harry Styles repeatedly pressed pause during his tour earlier this year. Pharrell Williams, Slipknot, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish and the Killers have also had to act as crowd control. Safety experts explain why – and how it started with Oasis.

Climate check: how climate breakdown is supercharging toll of extreme weather

The fire burns
Angela Crawford leans against a fence as a wildfire called the McKinney fire burns a hillside above her home in Klamath national forest, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

The devastating intensification of extreme weather is laid bare in a Guardian analysis that shows how people across the world are losing their lives and livelihoods owing to more deadly and more frequent heatwaves, floods, wildfires and droughts brought by the climate crisis. Most worryingly, all this is happening with a rise of just 1C in the planet’s average temperature. The role of global heating in supercharging extreme weather is happening at “astonishing speed”, scientists say.

Last Thing: condoms to secret documents – Nazi U-boat items to go on display for first time

The items in a box
Items found include an air-testing kit, with glass tubes still containing pink liquid. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

There are two enigma machines, dozens of bottles of French wine and about 200 condoms – alongside toothpaste that’s still minty, and coffee which has retained its aroma, writes Robyn Vinter. A trove of extraordinarily well preserved Nazi artefacts, recovered from a sunken U-boat in the 1990s after nearly 50 years at the bottom of the ocean, are to go on public display for the first time in Liverpool, UK, as historians hope to gain insights into why this particular U-boat did not surrender at the end of the war, a mystery that has long puzzled historians.

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