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A Murder Conviction Was Overturned Using DNA and a Family Tree

18 July, by Amy Gunia[ —]

A man was cleared for a decades-old murder case Wednesday using DNA and genetic family tree information, the first time a new genetic investigative method has ever led to an exoneration.

Christoper Tapp, 43, served 20 of a 30 year sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of a woman named Angie Dodge, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).

His conviction was overturned by a court in Idaho after evidence emerged through a technique called “genetic genealogy,” which was also used to identify the “Golden State Killer.” It requires making DNA matches with distant relatives.

The DNA evidence led police to another suspect, the victim’s neighbor Brian Dripps, who was arrested in May and confessed to the crime.

“It’s a new life, a new beginning, a new world for me, and I’m just gonna enjoy every day,” Tapp said at the end of the hearing, according to local media cited by AFP.

Read More: How Investigators Got the Golden State Killer Suspect’s DNA

AFP reports that Tapp was sentenced in 1998, based only a confession which he later retracted. The court agreed to release him from prison in 2017, but the charges were not dropped.

“It’s just such an incredible feeling to be a part of clearing an innocent man’s name,” CeCe Moore, the genetic genealogist who worked on the case, reportedly told ABC.

Several popular websites in the U.S. collect the DNA samples of users and allow them to find relatives online by posting their results and generating a list of matches. The websites can also be used by police to find possible matches or relatives of people whose DNA is found at crime scenes.

According to AFP, about 70 cases have been solved using DNA matches with distant relatives, including the notorious Golden State Killer, who is believed to be responsible for 12 murders and more than 45 rapes in California.

A Man Who Wrote a Message in a Bottle 50 Years Ago Has Been Found

18 July, by Amy Gunia[ —]

The man who wrote a 50-year-old message in a bottle found on Wednesday has been tracked down.

ABC located Paul Gilmore, who wrote the letter when he was 13, through his family in Australia and England, who say that he’s currently on a cruise in the Baltic and he doesn’t know his letter has been found yet.

But his family was pleasantly surprised by the resurfacing of his letter.

“It’s amazing, absolutely incredible,” his sister Annie Crossland said, according to ABC. “He’ll be chuffed to bits.” She added that “he sent about six of them.”

Paul’s younger brother, David, said the letter belonged to him, according to ABC. “It’s really strange,” he said. “I’m looking at the message now and yeah, I can see it’s my brother’s writing — he’s obviously a bit younger then.”

Gilmore threw the letter overboard while on a ship traveling with his family from England to Australia, where they emigrated, according to ABC. He was looking for a penpal.

According to ABC, he included his future address in the Australian state of Victoria and wrote: “We are 1,000 miles east of Fremantle, Western Australia … please reply.”

The ship traveled from Southampton in the U.K. and sailed via the Canary Islands and Cape Town before a layover in Western Australia. After the stop, it went on to Melbourne. Gilmore’s family thinks he dropped the bottle during the last stretch of the journey, according to ABC.

Nine-year-old Jyah Elliott found the bottle on a beach in South Australia, according to ABC, and wrote back on Tuesday.

ABC says that the siblings have assured them that Gilmore will send a response when he’s back from his cruise.

Hawaiian Elders Arrested as Standoff Continues Over a Telescope Slated for a Sacred Mountain

18 July, by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Caleb Jones / AP[ —]

(HONOLULU) — Thousands of protesters have joined a swelling effort to stop construction of a telescope they have long tried to keep off a mountain considered sacred to some Native Hawaiians, but state officials doubled down Wednesday on their commitment to ensure the project will be completed.

After a day of growing crowds and arrests of elderly demonstrators, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation giving law enforcement more options to end the blockade.

The state hadn’t decided whether to remove protesters from the mountain, but the proclamation makes that an option, Ige said.

“We are certainly committed to ensuring the project has access to the construction site,” Ige said. “We’ve been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project.”

About 2,000 people packed the base of Mauna Kea after the arrests, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said. That’s more than three times the number of protesters who had showed up in previous days.

Police in riot gear temporarily lined the road to the top of the Big Island mountain, which is valued by astronomers for its consistently clear weather and minimal light pollution and the site for the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, expected to be one of the world’s most advanced.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta told The Associated Press that police took away about 30 elders who were prepared to be arrested as they blocked the road.

“They’re taking our kupuna,” Pisciotta said, using the Hawaiian word for elders, and sobbing. Around her, people sang “Hawaii Aloha,” a Hawaiian song that’s common at events.

Some of the elders being arrested used canes and strollers to walk, while others were taken in wheelchairs to police vans. Those who could walk on their own were led away with their hands in zip ties.

State spokesman Dan Dennison 33 people were arrested, given citations and released.

Walter Ritte, one of the protesters arrested, said he was driven down the mountain and later went back to the base of Mauna Kea but didn’t plan to block the road again Wednesday.

“But tomorrow is another day, and we’re free to do whatever we want tomorrow,” Ritte said.

Native Hawaiian protesters and other opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope say they are concerned that construction will desecrate and damage the mountain.

The project has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations. Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that telescope officials had legally obtained a permit, clearing the way for construction to begin.

But protesters are still fighting at the mountain and in court, filing a lawsuit last week that said the project must post a security bond equivalent to the construction contract cost before starting to build.

Telescope officials said the challenge has no merit and is another delay tactic.

Some Native Hawaiians say they don’t believe the project will desecrate Mauna Kea. Most of the cultural practices on the mountain take place away from the summit, said Annette Reyes, a Native Hawaiian from the Big Island.

“It’s going to be out of sight, out of mind,” she said.

Authorities closed the road to the mountain Monday to allow construction to begin, attracting hundreds of protesters who formed their own roadblocks.

The blockade forced astronomers to stop operating 13 existing telescopes on the mountain Tuesday. Dozens of researchers from around the globe won’t be able to gather data and study the sky.

Observations won’t resume until staffers have consistent access to the summit, a move that is needed to ensure their safety, said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, one of the existing telescopes.

“Our science time is precious, but in this case, our priority is just to make sure all of our staff is safe,” Dempsey said.

Suspected Arson in Japanese Anime Studio Leaves Up to 23 Dead

18 July, by Mari Yamaguchi / AP[ —]

(TOKYO) — A man screaming “You die!” burst into an animation production studio in Kyoto, Japan, and set it on fire early Thursday, authorities said, killing seven people and leaving at least 16 more presumed dead.

The blaze injured another 36 people, some of them critically, Japanese authorities said. Most were workers at Kyoto Animation, known for mega-hit stories featuring high school girls.

The fire started in the three-story building in Japan’s ancient capital after the suspect sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, Kyoto prefectural police and fire department officials said.

Seven have been confirmed dead with severe burns, said fire department official Satoshi Fujiwara. Six people also found on the first and second floors were presumed dead, Fujiwara said.

On the third floor, more than 10 people were found unresponsive, he said. Some of them were found on the stairs, where they apparently collapsed while gasping for air and trying to go out to the roof.

The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital, officials said. Police are investigating the man on suspicion of arson.

Survivors who saw the attacker said he was not their colleague and that he was screaming “(You) die!” when he dumped the liquid and started the fire, according to Japanese media reports. They said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.

Footage on Japan’s NHK television showed gray smoke billowing from the charred building. Other footage showed windows blown off.

“There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting, some asking for help,” a female witness told TBS TV. “Black smoke was rising from windows on upper floors, then there was a man struggling to crawl out of the window.”

Witnesses in the neighborhood said they heard bangs coming from the building, others said they saw people coming out blackened, bleeding, walking barefoot, Kyodo News reported.

Rescue officials set up an orange tent outside the studio building to provide first aid and sort out the injured.

Fire department officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time of the fire and many of them ran outside.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include “Lucky Star,” ”K-On!” and “Haruhi Suzumiya.”

With at least 23 killed or presumed dead, the fire was the worst mass killing in Japan since a man stabbed and killed 19 people at an assisted living facility in western Tokyo in 2016.

A fire in 2001 in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in its worst known case of arson in modern times. Police never announced an arrest for setting the blaze, though five people were convicted of negligence. In 2008, 16 people died in a blaze at a movie theater in Osaka, near Kyoto.

The Louvre Removed the Name of OxyContin-Linked Sackler Family From Its Walls

18 July, by Amy Gunia[ —]

The Louvre in Paris removed mentions of the Sackler family on Wednesday, becoming one of the first major museums to drop the name of the philanthropic family that also produces the powerful and addictive painkiller OxyContin.

The museum’s collection of Persian and Levantine artifacts has been housed in a wing called the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiques since 1997, according to the New York Times. A plaque acknowledging the family’s donation was removed from the entrance and grey tape covered mentions of “the Sackler Wing” in other parts of the museum.

The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, which produces OxyContin, a frequently abused painkiller. A devastating opioid crisis in the U.S. has left millions of people addicted to the painkiller or stronger drugs. Executives from the company have admitted that Purdue downplayed the strength and addictive qualities of the drug. Purdue is facing numerous lawsuits in the U.S.

In March, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery declined a $1.3 million donation from the family’s charity organization, according to the Times. Several other museums — including the Tate museums in the U.K. and the Guggenheim in New York — announced that they would not accept further donations from the family.

Read More: John Oliver Revisits the Opioid Crisis on Last Week Tonight, This Time With Some Celebrity Help

The Louvre’s move followed a small protest in early July by the activist group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now against the use of the Sackler name. Former-opioid addict and award-winning photographer Nan Goldin led the protest.

According to the Times, Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum’s president, told a French radio station that the Sackler name had been removed because of a museum policy that grants naming rights for only 20 years.

Several other museums told the Times that they would not be changing names of parts of their buildings named for the family, like the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, although the latter said it plans to stop accepting donations from the family.

“I know that the museums, especially in America, have enormous trouble being funded and it’s so important museums stay open,” Goldin said, according to the Times. “But museums are also about ethics and morality.”

In 2018, opioid overdoses were responsible for an estimated 47,600 deaths in the U.S. Newly released federal data showed that drugmakers increased opioid shipments by more than 50% as the crisis crew.

Defying Trump, House Votes to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

18 July, by Amy Gunia[ —]

The House of Representatives passed three resolutions Wednesday to block the sale of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a move made in defiance of President Donald Trump and likely to be vetoed.

Several Republicans and Independent Justin Amash, who left the GOP last month citing disenchantment with the Republican party, voted in line with Democrats in the three back-to-back votes, according to the New York Times.

U.S. President Donald Trump had invoked an emergency provision to allow him to circumvent Congress to push the $8.1 billion arms sales through. Lawmakers expressed outrage over Trump’s tactics.

“If the administration wants to sell these weapons, they should follow the law — not misuse it — and come to Congress,” said Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the Times, adding that the Iran emergency was “phony” and conceived “to trample on this body’s constitutional duties.”

Many Republicans supported Trump’s enactment of the emergency measures amid what the administration portrayed as heightened tensions with Iran. “The decision to move forward with these arms sales is part of a larger effort to deter Iran,” Michael McCaul, member of the Foreign Affairs committee had previously said, according to the Times.

Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has caused a rift between Congress and the President, who has refused to speak out against the kingdom. In April, legislators voted to end U.S. involvement in a Saudi-led war in Yemen which has caused high civilian casualties. More than more than 7,500 children have died or been injured. Trump vetoed the decision, according to the Times.

Saudi Arabia’s leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (commonly known as MBS) is also believed to be responsible for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime. A recent U.N. report found “credible evidence” warranting further investigation of bin Salman for his role in the killing.

Khashoggi was one of the journalists named as TIME Person of the Year in 2018, for “taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out.”

‘Cambodia Is Not a Dustbin.’ More Plastic Waste to Be Sent Back to the U.S. and Canada

18 July, by Amy Gunia[ —]

Cambodia announced that it will send 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste back to the U.S. and Canada, becoming the latest Southeast Asian country join the backlash against taking in the developed world’s trash.

The country’s environment minister said 83 shipping containers of garbage were found Tuesday at Cambodia’s main port in Sihanoukville, according to the Guardian. Seventy of the containers came from the U.S. and 13 were shipped from Canada.

“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the country’s environment minister, said according to the Guardian.

Read More: Southeast Asia Doesn’t Want to Be the World’s Dumping Ground. Here’s How Some Countries Are Pushing Back

The spokesman said that the government plans to investigate how and why the containers were sent to the country, and fines might be imposed on companies responsible for shipping the waste, reports the Guardian.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia does not allow plastic waste or recyclables to be sent there, according to the Guardian.

Southeast Asia saw a huge spike in plastic waste shipments after China, who was the largest importer of scrap plastic, banned the import of plastic waste in at the beginning of 2018 because of severe pollution due to a poorly managed waste process.

But several countries have pushed back. In May, Malaysia said it would send waste back to where it came from, and the Philippines sent 69 containers of garbage for the shores of Vancouver in late May. Indonesia said this month that it would send dozens of containers of waste back to France, Australia and other developed countries, reports the Guardian.

According to Greenpeace, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950’s, and only 9% of this has been recycled. 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year.

The U.S. ‘Shot Itself in the Foot’ by Pulling Out of the Nuclear Deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Says

18 July, by Margaret Talev and David Wainer / Bloomberg[ —]

The U.S. “shot itself in the foot” by pulling out of the nuclear accord with Iran, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, offering a grim outlook for the chance of opening talks with President Donald Trump.

Zarif, in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television, also accused European countries that are part of the agreement of failing to carry out their own commitments under the 2015 deal and after the U.S. withdrawal. He said promises to allow Iran to sell oil and repatriate money have failed to materialize.

Addressing U.S. allegations that Iran has never given up its goal of building nuclear weapons, Zarif said Iran has the technical ability to pursue them “very rapidly” but “we’re not going to” because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a “religious commitment” that they are forbidden, Zarif said in the interview with Bloomberg Editor in Chief John Micklethwait.

“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we could have built it a long time ago,” said Zarif, who was in New York to address a United Nations meeting.

Nevertheless, Zarif signaled that Iran will continue to pursue what he called the Islamic Republic’s rights under the accord to respond to the U.S. withdrawal and failed European efforts to deliver promised benefits to the Iranian economy.

Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf region since the Trump administration stopped issuing sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil and reimposed crippling economic measures against Tehran. In response, Iran has started gradually breaching parts of the nuclear accord, confirming in July that it had surpassed agreed caps on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and exceeded the allowable level of enrichment.

“Yeah, we will continue with the steps, and these steps are legal, in line with the agreement,” Zarif said, when asked about the likelihood of continuing uranium enrichment.

The threat of conflict appeared to climb even higher following a spate of attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf region in May and June, the downing of an American drone last month and the recent British seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian crude, which U.K. officials said was violating sanctions by heading toward Syria. Last month Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes on Iran over the drone, which U.S. officials claim was over international waters and Iran says was over their territory.

Zarif, who has been Iran’s foreign minister since 2013, was the lead negotiator in the multi-party nuclear accord reached in 2015 during the Obama administration that Trump has repeatedly called the “worst deal ever.”

Pressed on how to engage with the U.S. in a way that eases tensions, Zarif suggested that the burden falls on Trump. He also expressed skepticism of renegotiating the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to include talks on Iran’s missile program.

“You don’t buy a horse twice,” he said.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign is working and that the Trump administration is open to talks with Tehran without preconditions. But Pompeo has also laid out a series of 12 conditions for the easing of American sanctions. Iran wants sanctions eased before any talks.

Addressing U.S. accusations that Tehran fuels instability across the Mideast, Zarif said the primary culprits for regional turmoil are its rivals Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., who buy billions of dollars in weapons from the U.S. Dismissing an issue U.S. officials have cited in recent days, Zarif said that under no circumstances could Iran give up its missiles given the arms buildup by its enemies in the region.

Pressed on whether there’s a diplomatic solution to U.S.-Iran tensions, Zarif suggested that President Hassan Rouhani’s government is drawing lessons from Trump’s threats against Mexico over trade and immigration, and that it was clear to Tehran that Washington would keep asking for more even if the two parties were to eventually strike a new deal.

“After renegotiating NAFTA he raised a new demand and he tried to push Mexicans into giving in a bit more,” Zarif said. “So he always believes, it seems, that ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”’

Zarif rejected the idea that Iran is waiting for next year’s U.S. election to put a Democratic president in office who might be open to reentering the nuclear deal.

“No country in their right mind would make their foreign policy based on results they don’t have any control over,” he said. He went on to give Trump a “better than 50% chance” of winning reelection.

Crowd Chants ‘Send Her Back!’ at President Trump’s Combative North Carolina Rally

18 July, by Deb Riechmann / AP[ —]

(GREENVILLE, N.C.) — Going after four Democratic congresswomen one by one, a combative President Donald Trump turned his campaign rally Wednesday into an extended dissection of the liberal views of the women of color, deriding them for what he painted as extreme positions and suggesting they just get out.

“Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ’em leave, let ’em leave.'”

Eager to rile up his base with the some of the same kind of rhetoric he targeted at minorities and women in 2016, Trump declared, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”

Trump’s jabs were aimed at the self-described “squad” of four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.

Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman, mangling and misconstruing many facts along the way.

Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters’ grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!”

Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted that the four should “go back” to their home countries — though three were born in the United States. Trump has accused them of “spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician.”

He expanded on his criticisms in Greenville.

Among his complaints against Tlaib, Trump correctly reported that she had referred to the president by the “F-word,” adding, “That’s not nice, even for me.” Trump himself had unloaded a vulgarity earlier in his speech, denouncing the Russia probe of his campaign and administration as “bulls—.”

As for Ocasio-Cortez, Trump fumbled over her name and declared, “I don’t have time to go with three different names.” He then referred to her as just “Cortez” as he challenged her complaints about dire conditions at migrant detention centers at the border.

In a lighter moment, Trump wondered if Pressley was related to Elvis Presley, then pivoted to more serious points, claiming she thought people of color should “think the same.”

As for Omar, Trump unfurled a whole list of complaints, including a false accusation that she voiced pride in al-Qaida.

Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”

“If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don’t want to love our country, if they don’t want to fight for our country, they can,” Trump said. “I’ll never change on that.”

Trump’s harsh denunciations were another sign of his willingness to exploit the nation’s racial divisions heading into the 2020 campaign.

His speech was filled with Trump’s trademark criticisms about the news media, which he says sides with liberals, and of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed. Trump brought him up anyway. “What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president,” he said.

He also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first presidential bid that is taking center stage in his re-election campaign. He brushed off the criticism he has gotten for saying that the congresswomen should go back home. “So controversial,” he said sarcastically.

The four freshmen have portrayed the president as a bully who wants to “vilify” not only immigrants, but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change, while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of America values.

The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump for what it labeled “racist comments,” despite near-solid GOP opposition and the president’s own insistence that he doesn’t have a “racist bone” in his body.

Trump hasn’t shown signs of being rattled by the House rebuke, and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier Wednesday “ridiculous.” The condemnation carries no legal repercussions and his latest harangues struck a chord with supporter in Greenville, whose chants of “Four more years!” and “Build that wall!” bounced off the rafters.

Vice President Mike Pence was first up after spending the day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and visiting troops at Fort Bragg. “North Carolina and America needs four more years,” Pence said.

It was Trump’s sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Iowa Official, an Avid Tupac Shakur Fan, Told to Resign After Sending Lyrics to Employees, Emails Show

18 July, by RYAN J. FOLEY / AP[ —]

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The director of Iowa’s social services agency was a huge fan of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and he frequently let his subordinates know it.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees lauding Shakur’s music and lyrics even after at least one complained to lawmakers. Then last month, he sent another such email to all 4,300 agency employees. He was abruptly ousted from his job the next work day.

Foxhoven, 66, told employees that he had been a huge fan of the hip-hop artist for years. He hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office. He traded lyrics with employees and he marked his own 65th birthday with Shakur-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug life.”

The agency released 350 pages of emails with the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” sent to and from Foxhoven during his two-year tenure in response to an AP request. They show that Foxhoven marked the anniversary of Shakur’s death, shared one of his lyrics about love on Valentine’s Day and used the rapper’s image to try to improve the agency’s culture. He told colleagues he was inspired by lyrics that included: “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”

While some employees praised Foxhoven for using Shakur to inject levity and inspiration into a stressful workplace, at least one complained to lawmakers about it last year, according to the emails provided under the open records law. And when Gov. Kim Reynolds told Foxhoven to resign on June 17, it was his first work day after he sent an agency-wide email telling employees to mark Shakur’s birthday over the weekend by listening to one of his songs.

The timing of Foxhoven’s mass email, which featured a large image of the rapper smiling, and his resignation has fueled speculation among employees that the two events are linked. But like the question of who fatally shot Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996, the reason for Foxhoven’s forced departure remains a mystery.

A spokesman for the governor wouldn’t confirm or deny that Foxhoven’s email figured into her surprise request for his resignation.

“As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction,” said spokesman Pat Garrett.

The governor’s office has refused to elaborate on those factors, despite an Iowa law that requires state agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when employees resign instead of being terminated.

Foxhoven’s ouster came amid multiple controversies involving the agency, which has a nearly $7 billion annual budget. They included difficult contract negotiations with managed care companies that run the Medicaid program, a trial detailing alleged mistreatment of boys at a state juvenile home, and an uptick in deaths at a center for the disabled. Still, Foxhoven’s job had not appeared to be in danger.

Reynolds had appointed Foxhoven, a longtime Drake University law professor, to run the agency in 2017 amid concerns about its handling of cases of children who died from abuse and neglect.

Foxhoven said in a text message that he believed Reynolds had made the decision to “go in a different direction” before he sent the June 14 email. He said he wasn’t given a reason for the resignation request but that he doubted Shakur was a factor.

The email included what Foxhoven called an inspirational quote from the artist: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.” Foxhoven noted that, in addition to Shakur’s birthday, he was celebrating his two-year anniversary as director and he thanked the staff for their work.

Foxhoven said he sent the message, which was similar to an email he sent the prior year to mark the day, to break down racist stereotypes about rap music.

Several employees reacted positively with notes to Foxhoven — but one noted that the view wasn’t universally shared.

“I love your 2pac messages … and the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more,” employee Lisa Bender wrote.

“I agree totally. I am going to hang in there on him — despite all of the naysayers,” Foxhoven responded.

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