Also in the news this Tuesday: an athlete chooses euthanasia and an Astros exec apologizes for his rant about player accused of domestic violence.
Gruesome cargo: Murder probe starts after 39 bodies found in truck
Police in southeastern England said 39 people were found dead Wednesday inside a large cargo truck believed to have come from Bulgaria.
The truck, which is said to have entered Britain via the Welsh port of Holyhead on Saturday, was found by ambulance workers at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, a town just by the River Thames around 25 miles east of central London.
"This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened," Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said.
"We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process."
A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody. He has not been charged or identified.
A cordon has been put in place and access to and from the industrial park remains closed.
"We are working with Thurrock Council (the local authority) to mitigate against any impact our investigation scene will have locally." Mariner said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in a tweet to work closely with Essex Police to establish exactly what happened.
"My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives & their loved ones," he said.
Police have not formally linked the deaths to people trafficking but a link is assumed because of the way the victims were crammed into the truck container.
The tragedy appears similar to the death of 58 migrants in 2000 in a truck in Dover. Smaller numbers of migrants have occasionally been found in trucks since then.
Bulgarian authorities said they could not yet confirm that the truck had started its journey from Bulgaria.
"We are in contact with our embassy in London and with British authorities," foreign ministry spokeswoman Tsvetana Krasteva said.
Jackie Doyle-Price, who represents Thurrock in parliament, said in a tweet that "people trafficking is a vile and dangerous purpose ... Let's hope they bring these murderers to justice."
Essex police say the force has not yet identified the 39 victims or where they came from.
Deputy police chief Pippa Mills said identification "could be a lengthy process" and that a key line of inquiry will be how the truck entered Ireland. It is believed to have traveled from Ireland to Holyhead in Wales on Saturday via ferry.
She refused to describe the gender of the victims.
Phoenix fires two cops, including one who pointed gun at black family
Two Phoenix police officers involved in separate incidents that drew national outrage, including one who pointed a gun and yelled profanities at a black family, will be fired, the chief of police said Tuesday.
"I expect more. You deserve more," Chief Jeri Williams said at a news conference. "Unlike other professions, we don't have a luxury of a do-over."
Williams said she notified Officer Christopher Meyer of his termination. Meyer was one of a group of officers seen on video drawing his gun and cursing at Iesha Harper, who was pregnant and holding a baby, and her fiance, Dravon Ames. Officers were responding to a complaint about shoplifting last May. When questioned, the couple said they were unaware their 4-year-old daughter had taken a doll from a store. No one was charged in the case.
A disciplinary review board had recommended Meyer receive a six-week suspension.
"In this case, a 240-hour suspension is just not sufficient to reverse the adverse effects of his actions on our department and our community," Williams said.
A second officer who was present will receive a reprimand for using foul language. But video shows he tried to calm the situation, Williams said.
The video surfaced in June and prompted an immediate backlash. At a community meeting, Williams and Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego faced a crowd that demanded the officers be fired.
At a separate news conference Tuesday, Ames and Harper said the officer's dismissal should have happened a lot sooner but were pleased nonetheless.
The couple has since filed a $10 million claim against the city. They have a mediation hearing with the city scheduled for Dec. 18.
Williams on Tuesday also fired Det. Dave Swick over social media posts in an unrelated case. The Plain View Project found public posts from officers from several police departments nationwide that appeared to be bigoted or glorifying police brutality.
He was one of a dozen Phoenix officers who were reassigned while an internal investigation was conducted. Swick had posts that were highlighted for their focus on Muslims and blacks. Among them was a meme that suggested speeding drivers should take aim at protesters of police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, where a young black man died in a police shooting in 2014.
Astros exec apologizes for rant over player accused of domestic violence
The assistant general manager of the Houston Astros apologized Tuesday for using "inappropriate language" after a Sports Illustrated report said he repeatedly yelled toward a group of female reporters about closer Roberto Osuna during a clubhouse celebration.
Brandon Taubman released a statement through the Astros hours before they played Game 1 of the World Series against Washington. Major League Baseball said it will interview those involved before further commenting.
Taubman's remarks after the Astros clinched the AL pennant reportedly referenced Osuna, who was suspended for 75 games last year for violating MLB's domestic violence policy before being traded from Toronto to the Astros.
According to SI, Taubman shouted "Thank God we got Osuna!" and made similar remarks several times, punctuating them with an expletive.
SI said one of the reporters was wearing a domestic violence awareness bracelet. The incident occurred after the Astros beat the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.
On Monday night, after the SI story was published, the Astros called it "misleading and completely irresponsible." The team said SI had tried to "fabricate a story where one does not exist" and said Taubman's comments weren't directed at the reporters.
Taubman, on Tuesday, said he was "deeply sorry and embarrassed."
"In retrospect, I realize that my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate. My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue," he said.
MLB said in a statement that "everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence."
"The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated's characterization of the incident. MLB will interview those involved before commenting further," it said.
Astros manager AJ Hinch said Tuesday that he wasn't aware of the incident until the story came out and that he hadn't spoken to everyone involved in it but that "we all need to be better across the board, in the industry" when it comes to matters such as these.
Canadian prosecutors dropped a domestic assault charge in September 2018 against Osuna, who agreed to stay away from a woman identified by authorities as the mother of his child for one year and continue counseling. The prosecution said the woman, who lived in Mexico, had made it clear she would not travel to Toronto to testify against Osuna.
Osuna was charged with assault in May 2018. The Blue Jays traded him to Houston two months later.
Also Tuesday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America denounced the incident and the team's handling of it and called for multiple members of the Astros front office to issue a public apology to the media outlets involved in the story. In addition, the Association for Women in Sports Media called on the Astros to retract the statement that the story was fabricated.
Anonymous Trump official writing 'unprecedented' inside take
The Trump administration official who wrote an anonymous essay about resistance from the inside has a book deal.
The book, titled "A Warning", will come out Nov. 19, The Hachette Book Group imprint Twelve announced Tuesday. It will likely set off the biggest Washington guessing game since "Primary Colors," the fictionalized take on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign that turned out to be written by journalist Joe Klein.
The anonymous essay appeared in The New York Times in September 2018 and said that many within the administration were actively blocking some of Trump's orders. No one has named the official despite widespread speculation and Trump's own suggestion that the author's identity be investigated.
Twelve is calling the book "an unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait" that "offers a shocking, first-hand account of President Trump and his record." The author will be identified as "A Senior Trump Administration Official."
According to the publisher, the author accepted no advance and will donate a portion of royalties to nonprofits that focus on accountability and "standing up" for truth in oppressive countries.
The official's literary representatives, the Washington-based Javelin, have made deals for other books that have enraged Trump, including former FBI director James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty" and former White House aide Cliff Sims' "Team of Vipers."
Paralympian who won gold ends her life via euthanasia
Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort took her life through euthanasia in her home country, after receiving consent from three different doctors.
Vervoort, 40 and a Paralympic gold medalist at London 2012, lived with a degenerative spinal condition that caused her constant pain and made sleeping very difficult.
A statement from her home city Diest said Vervoort "responded to her choice on Tuesday evening."
Vervoort won gold in the T52 100m wheelchair race and silver in the 200m race at the London 2012 Paralympics, and claimed two further medals at Rio 2016.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, and in 2008, she received assisted suicide approval after receiving consent from three different doctors.
In an interview with CNN in 2016, Vervoort explained that her decision to sign the euthanasia papers gave her back control.
"I no longer have a fear of death," she said. "I see it as an operation, where you go to sleep and never wake up. For me it's something peaceful. I don't want to suffer when I'm dying.
"When it becomes too much for me to handle than I have my life in my own hands."
Vervoort competed in the T52 classification for athletes who have limited or no mobility below their waists and who have impaired motor skills in their arms and hands.
Since retiring from sport after the Paralympics in 2016 -- admitting it had become "too hard on my body" -- Vervoort spent more time with her family, friends and her therapy dog, Zenn.
"When I'm going to have an epileptic attack, she warns me one hour before. I don't know how she feels it," Vervoort said.
Apart from a few countries, euthanasia is illegal in most of the world.
After signing her confirmation papers, Vervoort said she wanted to use the attention she garnered to educate other nations that lack assisted suicide measures for people whose suffering is unbearable.
"I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer," she said.
The diplomat took notes. Then he told a story
A secret cable. A disembodied voice. A coded threat.
William Taylor, a career diplomat, went behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol on Tuesday and told a tale that added up to the ultimate oxymoron — a 10-hour bureaucratic thriller.
His plot devices were not cloak and dagger, but memos, text messages — and detailed notes.
His testimony was laden with precision — names, dates, places, policy statements and diplomatic nuance, not typically the stuff of intrigue. But from the moment Taylor revealed that his wife and his mentor had given him conflicting advice on whether he should even get involved, the drama began to unfold.
Their counsel split like this: Wife: no way. Mentor: do it.
The mentor won out — or the story would have ended there.
Instead, on June 17, Taylor, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran and tenured foreign service officer, arrived in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv as the chief of mission. He had been recalled to service after the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine had been forced out. That alone offered foreshadowing of troubles to come.
And, soon enough, Taylor said in his written opening statement, he discovered "a weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances."
The story Taylor related from there amounted to a detailed, almost prosecutorial, rejoinder to White House efforts to frame President Donald Trump's actions in Ukraine as perfectly normal and unworthy of an impeachment investigation. With each documented conversation, he made it harder for the president to press his argument that there was no quid pro quo in which he held up military aid to advance his political interests.
Over three months, Taylor told legislators, he fought his way through a maze of diplomatic channels and rival backchannels as he tried to unravel the story behind the mysterious hold-up of $400 million in U.S. military aid that Ukraine desperately needed in order to defend itself against the Russians.
First came mixed signals about whether Trump would follow through on his promise to invite Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to meet with him in the Oval Office.
Taylor was told by other U.S. diplomats that Trump needed "to hear from" Zelenskiy before the meeting would be scheduled. And that Zelenskiy needed to make clear he was not standing in the way of "investigations."
Next, Taylor wrote, there was "something odd:" Gordon Sondland, a Trump ally and U.S. ambassador to the European Union, "wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring" a June 28 call that the diplomats made to Zelenskiy.
Soon enough, Taylor was detecting that Zelenskiy's hopes of snagging the coveted Oval Office meeting were contingent on the Ukrainian leader agreeing to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election and to look into a Ukrainian company linked to the family of Trump political foe Joe Biden.
"It was clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani," Taylor said, referring to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump lawyer who was involving himself in Ukrainian affairs.
The dueling channels of communication were highly unusual.
Then things got more strange:
Toward the end of a routine July 18 video conference with National Security Council officials in Washington, "a voice on the call" from an unknown person who was off-screen announced that the Office of Management and Budget would not approve any more U.S. security aid to Ukraine "until further notice."
"I and others sat in astonishment," Taylor recounted.
From there, Taylor made his way through a confusing web of conversations, text messages, cables and other contacts trying to figure out why this was happening.
His diplomatic parrying was punctuated by a detour to the front lines of the Russia-Ukraine fighting in northern Donbas, where Taylor witnessed firsthand "the armed and hostile Russia-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact."
That frozen military aid was no mere abstraction.
"More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance," Taylor wrote.
The diplomat was so troubled that he requested a private meeting with John Bolton when the national security adviser visited Kyiv in late August.
Bolton's counsel to Taylor: Send a "first-person cable" to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laying out his concerns. Taylor took the advice and sent a secret cable describing the "folly" of withholding assistance.
He got no specific response.
He still couldn't explain to the Ukrainians why they weren't getting their aid.
And time was running out: If the assistance wasn't delivered by Sept. 30, the end of the government's fiscal year, it would vanish.
In early September, the puzzle pieces began to fit together.
It wasn't just the Oval Office meeting that was contingent on Zelenskiy investigating Democrats, Taylor learned, it was the military aid.
Taylor said Sondland told him that if Zelenskiy didn't publicly announce the investigations, there would a "stalemate."
He took "stalemate" to be code for holding up the assistance.
Taylor's text messages take the story forward:
"I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," he wrote to Sondland.
Sondland waited five hours to respond with a clinical denial of any such contingency: "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind." He reportedly talked to Trump before he sent the response.
The explanation didn't satisfy Taylor.
But, at last, on Sept. 11, Taylor got word that the hold on releasing the money had been lifted and the security assistance would be provided.
Taylor summed up his tale as "a rancorous story about whistleblowers, Mr. Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption, and interference in elections."