On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Mass shooters are getting younger and deadlier
Domestic security correspondent Josh Meyer reports. Plus, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi closes, patient safety reporter Karen Weintraub updates us on promising pancreatic cancer treatment, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigns and the trial of basketball star Brittney Griner continues.
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Buenos dias. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Thursday, the 7th of July, 2022. Today, mass shooting suspects are getting younger. Plus more abortion clinics close, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- The man charged with killing seven and injuring dozens at the Highland Park, Illinois 4th of July parade has confessed. Prosecutors say he also considered another attack in Wisconsin.
- Utah’s Great Salt Lake has hit a record low level for the second time in less than a year. It’s part of historic drought conditions made worse by climate change across the Western United States.
- The first bull run in three years is in the books in Pamplona, Spain. No one was gored in this year’s event.
Mass shooting suspects are getting younger and deadlier. 5 Things producer, PJ Elliott spoke with USA TODAY Domestic Security Correspondent Josh Meyer to find out more.
This is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s been happening for 20 years or more since the Columbine shooting in 1999. But this year alone, we’ve had two shooters who had just turned 18 in Buffalo and in Uvalde, Texas. Then now you have this shooter in Highland Park, just outside of Chicago, who was 21. They’re getting younger. Authorities believe they’re getting more frequent and they’re getting deadlier.
What do experts have to say about possible reasons for these young people carrying out the attacks?
There’s a lot of reasons that experts say this is happening. Some of them are doing it out of a perverse desire to make a difference in the world. Others are driven by mental illness, social media influences that turn them into hateful and sadistic monsters, according to some of these experts. One of them is pandemic isolation, that people are really cooped up, isolated and don’t have places to turn to outlets for their frustration and anger.
Is there any difference between a younger person who carries out a mass shooting attack and an older person?
And it is. In fact, that’s a very good question. There are a lot of differences. I mean, a time was when almost all of the mass shooters were people that had workplace issues, people that had been fired or demoted or had issues at work and would go there and shoot them up. But now it’s younger people and they’re very media-savvy, very tech-savvy. They spend a lot of time on social media, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, a lot of those different platforms and they are leaving a digital trail. The problem is finding it, as one former FBI agent told me, “You can’t really find it, it’s much worse than a needle in the haystack. The Internet,” she said, “Is as wide as the sands across the entire world and very deep, so it’s very hard to find what they’re doing.”
One of the things that people are concerned about, that experts are concerned about is that a lot of these people that are doing these shootings, it’s a universal quest for significance and for acknowledgement, I think. I talked to a guy who runs the Motivated Cognition Laboratory at the University of Maryland, Dr. Kruglanski. He said that many mass shooters, especially young males in America are driven by a desire to become recognized or even famous, that is so all-consuming that it becomes a form of extremist radicalization. He’s done lab experiments, neuroscience techniques, computer modeling, to figure this out. Basically, what he says is that this is not as much of a sign of mental illness or psychological pathology as many people believe it is. It’s something much more fundamental and it stems from the universal human quest for self-worth or the belief that others acknowledge and respect you.
He said that the quest for significance, to have dignity, to be somebody, to matter, to gain attention is paramount to a lot of these mass shooters. Unfortunately, they see violence as a way, a primordial way of doing that and doing it overnight. He says that social media and the cult of celebrity in the United States these days, means that these mass shooters are gaining tremendous media attention and very, very quickly, oftentimes more than TV stars and film stars. Therefore, they feel that this is a sure-fire way of gaining status and significance, which is what they want.
For more, click a link in today’s episode description.
The last abortion clinic in Mississippi will shut down today. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization performed the last legal abortions in the state yesterday. Mississippi is the state with the highest infant mortality and teen birth rates in the country, according to CDC data. Abortion access continues to be cut in large chunks of the country as conservative states create restrictions or bans that took effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Mississippi was one of 13 states with trigger laws, which automatically banned abortions after the High Court ruling.
Advancements are coming to how we treat pancreatic cancer, even as it’s said to overtake lung cancer as the deadliest type of tumor. Patient Safety Reporter Karen Weintraub has more.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst cancers in terms of five-year survival rates. Only about 10% can live for more than five years after diagnosis. One of the reasons is, it’s very hard to diagnose early. There are no obvious symptoms and so it tends to spread before it’s diagnosed. What’s happening now are a couple of things. One is, doctors are very slowly learning how to turn the immune system against pancreatic cancer. If that works, if that can be made to work consistently, it offers tremendous potential because the immune system can keep going after. …It doesn’t stop and it can adapt to changes in cancer. The potential for long-term solutions really do lie with immune therapy.
In the meantime, there are other advances, improvements in chemotherapy, improvements in timing and staging of treatments. Smaller stage improvements, but that also offer the possibility of longer survival and better quality of life.
The trials right now, most of the clinical trials are still in very early stages, just testing on maybe a half a dozen people. That will take a couple of years to go through and to be proven out that it can be consistently effective. Maybe three to five years.
One of the points that the doctors I spoke with made is that they’re not there yet. They haven’t achieved what they hope to achieve, but that the tide has turned, that we’re no longer in a situation of complete hopelessness with pancreatic cancer, that there are a lot of prospects for improvements going forward. They may not happen fast enough for people who have already been diagnosed, but it looks like in three to five years, a diagnosis with pancreatic cancer is going to look very different than it does today, or at least that’s the hope.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to resign. Johnson faced calls from his cabinet to step down amid controversy for his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official. That was just the latest in a long line of issues that have made ruling conservative party lawmakers uncomfortable, and dozens of ministers quit his government and told him to go. It was not immediately clear this morning whether he would stay in office while the conservatives choose a new leader, or who will replace him as prime minister. Johnson had indicated as recently as yesterday that he planned on staying in power.
The trial of US basketball star, Brittney Griner continues. Griner faces drug smuggling charges in Russia after being arrested on February 17th on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for her Russian team. If convicted, Griner could face 10 years in prison. Her detention of her came just before Russia invaded Ukraine as well, complicating US efforts in trying to free her from her. Griner recently appealed to President Joe Biden in a letter saying she feared she might never return home. She asked that Biden not forget about her and other American detainees. Yesterday, Biden spoke by phone with his wife, Cherelle Griner, and the White House says he plans to send a letter to Brittney. Brittney Griner has also spoken with several US diplomats. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned some of the letter’s details this week.
It is a deeply personal letter. As you know, this president takes that very personally as well. Brittney Griner talked about the 4th of July, which we just celebrated yesterday, talking about freedom and how different it means for her. You heard the president’s speech from her, which was also very powerful yesterday speaking about that in the time and the moment that we’re in. I don’t have anything to share about if he’s going to respond, or what that would look like. I can confirm again that he has read the letter and it was, as we all know, deeply personal, and we’re going to do everything, the president’s going to do everything that he can in his power to bring her home.
Griner’s trial is formally set to resume today.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us seven mornings a week on whatever your favorite podcast app is. Thanks to PJ Elliot for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism