US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence

AP Photo
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Tens of thousands of young people in U.S. communities big and small walked out of school to demand action on gun violence Wednesday in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged since the massacre in Florida.

Braving snow in New England and threats of school discipline in places like Georgia, they carried signs, chanted slogans against the National Rifle Association and bowed their heads in silent tribute to the 17 dead in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I don’t want my mother or my father having to worry about me going to school getting an education and then my life is gone,” said Leticia Carroll, a 15-year-old freshman who helped organize a walkout of more than 100 students at Groves High School in Beverly Hills, Michigan, outside of Detroit.

She added: “We need answers. We need something done.”

Across the country and beyond, students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes – one minute for each of the dead in Florida.

Max Poteat, a student who helped lead a walkout at North Carolina’s East Chapel Hill High School, said he was struck by the emotional weight of the moment.

“I think halfway through it really hit me, and I think everyone around, that these are teenagers just like us and that their lives were taken innocently – and that time is needed for change,” he said.

In Washington, more than 2,000 high-school age protesters observed the 17 minutes of silence by sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House as a church bell tolled. President Donald Trump was in Los Angeles at the time.

The protesters carried signs with messages such as “Our Blood/Your Hands” and “Never Again” and chanted slogans against the NRA.

Stoneman Douglas High senior David Hogg livestreamed the walkout at the tragedy-stricken school in Parkland, Florida, on his YouTube channel. Walking amid a mass of people making their way onto the football field, he criticized politicians for not taking more action to protect students.

He said the students could not be expected to remain in class when there was work to do to prevent gun violence.

“Every one of these individuals could have died that day. I could have died that day,” he said.

At other schools, students created symbols to try to represent the tragedy. At Cooper City High, near Parkland, students gathered around 14 empty desks and three podiums arranged in a circle outside the school, representing the 14 students and three faculty members killed in the shooting. The students then released 17 doves from a box.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened discipline.

About 10 students left Ohio’s West Liberty-Salem High School – which witnessed a shooting last year – despite a warning they could face detention or more serious discipline.

Police in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta patrolled Kell High, where students were threatened with unspecified consequences if they participated in the walkout. Three students walked out anyway for the 17-minute protest. A British couple walking their dogs went to the school to encourage students but were threatened with arrest if they did not leave.

The coordinated walkouts were organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women’s March, which brought thousands to Washington last year. It offered the students a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.

The organizers are seeking to keep up the pressure for stricter gun laws despite resistance from the White House and little action over the years on Capitol Hill.

After initially endorsing an increase in the minimum age for buying assault weapons to 21, Trump left that out of a proposal that calls for a panel study on school safety.

Historians said the demonstrations were shaping up to be one of the largest youth protests in decades.

“It seems like it’s going to be the biggest youth-oriented and youth-organized protest movements going back decades, to the early ’70s at least,” said David Farber a history professor at the University of Kansas who has studied social change movements.

“Young people are that social media generation, and it’s easy to mobilize them in way that it probably hadn’t been even 10 years ago.”

The walkouts drew support from companies including media conglomerate Viacom, which paused programming on MTV, BET and all its other networks for 17 minutes during the walkouts.

Other protests planned in coming weeks include the March for Our Lives rally for school safety, which organizers say is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24. Another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting in Colorado.

Associated Press writers Ken Thomas at the White House; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Jonathan Drew in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.

Follow Binkley on Twitter at @cbinkley

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US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence
US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence
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CBS suspends Rose, PBS halts his show following allegations

NEW YORK (AP) — Charlie Rose is the latest public figure to be felled by sexual misconduct allegations, with PBS halting distribution of his nightly interview show and CBS News suspending him Monday following a Washington Post report with the accusations of eight women.

The women, who all worked for Rose or tried to work for him, accused the veteran newsman of groping them, walking naked in front of them and telling one that he dreamed about her swimming nude.

Rose, 75, said in a statement that he was “deeply embarrassed” and apologized for his behavior.

“PBS was shocked to learn today of these deeply disturbing allegations,” the public broadcasting service said in a statement. “We are immediately suspending distribution of ‘Charlie Rose.'”

Three women went on the record in the Post’s deeply-reported story. Reah Bravo, a former associate producer for Rose’s PBS show who began working for him in 2007, told the newspaper: “He was a sexual predator, and I was his victim.” She said Rose groped her on multiple occasions and once, during a business trip to Indiana, called her to his hotel room where he emerged from a shower naked.

Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, one of Rose’s former assistants, was 21 when she said Rose repeatedly called her to describe his fantasies of her swimming naked at the pool at his Long Island home while he watched from his bedroom. She said she was fired when Rose learned she had spoken to a mutual friend about his behavior.

Megan Creydt, who worked as a coordinator on Rose’s PBS show in 2005 and 2006, told the newspaper that she was sitting in the passenger seat as Rose drove in Manhattan one day when he put his hand on her thigh. Five women interviewed by the Post described similar grabs to their legs in what many interpreted as an attempt to see their reactions.

Rose said that he has behaved insensitively at times “and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken. I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will, too.”

Rose’s interview show is seen in 94 percent of the country on PBS stations. It is rebroadcast on Bloomberg’s cable network, which also announced Monday it was suspending the show. He interviews a wide circle of people in the media, politics and entertainment – this month including Harvard President Drew Faust, rapper Macklemore and the Post’s Robert Costa, who talked about that paper’s sexual harassment investigation of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

He also hosts “CBS This Morning” with Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, a critically-acclaimed morning news programs which has been gaining the past few years on its better-known rivals. Rose also conducts interviews for “60 Minutes.”

Despite his age and heart troubles in the past, Rose had been one of the busiest figures in television.

Two hours after the Post story went online, one of its authors, Amy Brittain, tweeted that “sadly, my inbox is already flooded with women who have had similar, disturbing encounters with Charlie Rose.”

Rose owned his interview show, even though PBS distributed it, and that raised questions of what recourse women who had complaints about his behavior could do. The Post quoted Yvette Vega, his longtime executive producer, as saying she failed and deeply regretted not helping women who complained about his behavior.

But it apparently was a poorly-kept secret in the industry. Two former employees interviewed by the Post said young women hired by the show were known as “Charlie’s Angels.” A Post contributing writer who worked on the story said she was reporting on some of the allegations while working at another news organization in 2010 but could not confirm them.

Stories of sexual misconduct have been coming in a flood since The New York Times first reported on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s behavior in early October. Even on Monday, the Times suspended White House reporter Glenn Thrush while it looked into a story about him making drunken, unwanted advances on women. In the news business alone, NBC political reporter Mark Halperin and top National Public Radio news executive Michael Oreskes have lost their jobs.

Interviewed last April outside a Time magazine gala, Rose was asked by The Associated Press about Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who lost his job when it was revealed his network had paid millions of dollars to settle claims women had made against him.

“All of the cases that raise the issue of sexual harassment, which is a terrible thing, (and) has probably been not exposed enough,” Rose said. “Not enough in the sense of the attention in the past, so that people were afraid to come forward. I think people are coming forward now.”

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CBS suspends Rose, PBS halts his show following allegations
CBS suspends Rose, PBS halts his show following allegations
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Source: AP HEADLINES

Mississippi imposes 15-week abortion ban; nation's toughest

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s governor signed a law Monday banning most abortions after 15 weeks’ gestations, the tightest restrictions in the nation.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has frequently said he wants Mississippi to be the “safest place in America for an unborn child.”

House Bill 1510’s only exceptions are if a fetus has health problems making it “incompatible with life” outside of the womb at full term, or if a pregnant woman’s life or a “major bodily function” is threatened by pregnancy. Pregnancies resulting from rape and incest aren’t exempted.

Mississippi previously tied with North Carolina for the nation’s strictest abortion limits at 20 weeks. Both states count pregnancy as beginning on the first day of a woman’s previous menstrual period. That means the restrictions kick in about two weeks before those of states whose 20-week bans begin at conception.

The state is bracing for immediate lawsuits. Abortion rights advocates say the law is unconstitutional because it limits abortion before fetuses can live outside the womb. The owner of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic in Jackson opposes the law and has pledged to sue.

“We certainly think this bill is unconstitutional,” said Katherine Klein, equality advocacy coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. “The 15-week marker has no bearing in science. It’s just completely unfounded and a court has never upheld anything under the 20-week viability marker.”

The bill was drafted with the assistance of conservative groups including the Mississippi Center for Public Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

“We’re thrilled that Mississippi lawmakers are taking a step to protect the basic right to life, as well as protecting maternal health,” said Jameson Taylor, acting president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

Both Republican-controlled chambers passed the bill overwhelmingly in early March, by a vote of 35-14 in the Senate and 76-34 in the House.

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a 20-week abortion ban bill in January. With 60 “yes” votes required to advance, the bill failed on a 51-46 vote.

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Mississippi imposes 15-week abortion ban; nation's toughest
Mississippi imposes 15-week abortion ban; nation's toughest
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Source: AP HEADLINES

The Latest: Youth across US rally for stricter gun control

AP Photo
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on student-led protests against gun violence (all times Eastern Daylight Time):

3:15 p.m.

Fifteen-year-old Brooke Solomon led thousands of demonstrators in a march through the downtown streets of Detroit. Ten-year-old Jack Thorne attended a similar event in Savannah, Georgia with his mom. South Salem High School student Allison Hmura told protesters in Salem, Oregon that students shouldn’t have to learn to “duck and cover.”

The youths were among hundreds of thousands at “March for Our Lives” events nationwide calling for stricter gun control in response to school shootings and gun violence.

“I’m here marching for the thousands of under-represented black and brown kids, especially in Detroit,” said Solomon, who wants background checks in all gun sales. “I’m looking for tougher gun laws and legislation that includes banning semi-automatic and assault weapons.”

In Savannah, Thorne held aloft a sign reading “Guns Don’t Kill People. Ummm… Yes They Do,” as he described how he and his classmates recently underwent active shooter drills in school.

And Hmura called on the nearly 2,400 people gathered at the Salem rally to fight for change.

“There cannot be two sides to our safety in school where we should be learning, growing and making friends – not learning how to duck and cover,” Hmura said.

3 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said in a prepared statement Saturday that he supports demonstrators’ rights to march at anti-gun rallies across the country, but called for activists to find common ground with opponents.

“While protests are a legitimate way of making a point, in our system of government, making a change requires finding common ground with those who hold opposing views,” the Republican from Florida said.

Rubio’s district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last month. He said that a ban on bump stocks (used to make guns fire more rapidly), improvements to the gun background check system and other efforts were achieved by finding common ground with those who don’t want certain gun bans.

“And finding common ground is what it will take to pass our red flag law so we can take guns away from dangerous people,” Rubio said.

Hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the United States are attending “March for Our Lives” rallies, calling on lawmakers to enact legislation to help stop school shootings and reduce gun violence.

2:20 p.m.

Thousands of people are flooding the streets of downtown Los Angeles to demand stricter gun laws in the U.S.

The rally was one of several being held across California and the United States on Saturday.

Protesters held signs and chanted as they marched to Los Angeles City Hall for the “March for Our Lives” rally.

Zoe Lopez, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Garden Grove, said she’s attending the rally to demand additional regulations on gun purchases.

In Sacramento, thousands chanted: “hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go” as they assembled at the state’s capitol.

Rallies in Oakland and San Diego also drew hundreds of demonstrators.

Similar rallies were being held in cities across America to march for gun control and ignite political activism among teenagers.

2:10 p.m.

The granddaughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. told tens of thousands of “March for Our Lives” demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C. that she too has a dream – for a gun-free world.

“I have a dream that enough is enough,” Yolanda Renee King said, referencing her grandfather’s famous speech. “That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”

The crowd roared in response. The Washington, D.C. event has thousands thronging Pennsylvania Avenue to hear speakers including survivors of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and singers like Miley Cyrus.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended youth-led, anti-gun rallies across the United States and the world on Saturday, calling on lawmakers to tighten gun control in order to stop mass shootings and gun violence.

1:55 p.m.

Hundreds of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrived for the Washington, D.C. march on three flights donated by Delta Air Lines.

They’ll return to Florida with Delta after the march too.

The airline, which broke ties with the National Rifle Association after last month’s school shooting that left 17 dead, said they offered the round-trip charter flights “as part of our commitment to supporting the communities we serve.

After the shooting in Parkland, Delta said it would no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members to reflect its neutral status on the gun-control debate.

The move triggered a backlash from gun advocates, and the state of Georgia killed a proposed tax break on jet fuel in retaliation.

1:45 p.m.

A series of protests held across the United States Saturday in support of gun control is shaping up to be one of the biggest youth protests since the era of the Vietnam War.

The “March for Our Lives” rallies are a call to action by student survivors of last month’s school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead.

At Washington’s “March for Our Lives” rally, throngs jammed Pennsylvania Avenue for blocks. Tens of thousands of teenagers and their supporters roared their approval as survivors of the Parkland, Florida, assault spoke from the stage. One of them, Delaney Tarr, laid down the students’ central demand, a ban on assault-type weapons, and declared “We will continue to fight for our dead friends.”

The Washington crowd was well into the tens of thousands. A vast crowd also rallied in New York City and large marches unfolded in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis and scores of other cities. More than 20,000 rallied in Parkland near the school.

1:35 p.m.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at student-led anti-gun rallies held across the United States on Saturday were joined by counterparts the world over.

In Paris, France about 100 demonstrators rallied near the Eiffel Tower in solidarity with the American “March for Our Lives” events.

Caitlin Waters, co-organizer of the Paris event, said it’s important for Americans overseas to let Washington know that they want more gun control. Similar rallies were planned in New Zealand, Japan and other countries around the world.

In the United States, rallies stretched from sea to shining sea, with people marching in huge cities like Los Angeles and New York City as well as in smaller ones like Boise, Idaho and Omaha, Nebraska.

1 p.m.

Prominent civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis says that the student-led, anti-gun protests occurring across the United States remind him of the early days of the civil rights era.

“I think it’s amazing,” Lewis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They will be the leaders of the 21st century.”

Lewis joined the “March for Our Lives” protest in Atlanta, Georgia, one of several anti-gun rallies being held across the U.S. on Saturday in response to last month’s Florida school shooting and other mass shootings.

The Democrat also implored his Republican colleagues in Congress to “come to the right side” and to pass meaningful gun-control legislation.

Lewis wore a button with a large red letter “F” on it, proudly displaying the grade he said he has received from the NRA. Lewis said hundreds of Democratic members of the House were wearing them today.

12:35 p.m.

Tens of thousands gathered at a “March for Our Lives” rally in New York City on Saturday held a moment of silence to honor 17 people killed during a school shooting in Florida just last month.

Sam Hendler, a 16-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was at the rally to read the victims’ names.

Another MSD student, Meghan Bonner, told the demonstrators that she wasn’t surprised when she learned the identity of the shooter because it was obvious something was wrong with him.

“There was so much more that could have been done to prevent this,” she said, fighting back tears. “I want to see change.”

The rally in midtown Manhattan is one of several being held across the United States on Saturday in response to gun violence.

—-

11:55 a.m.

The mayor of Houston, Texas told thousands of demonstrators at a “March for Our Lives” rally that adults have a responsibility to protect all children.

Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke at the Tranquillity Park event Saturday morning, one of several anti-gun rallies being held across the U.S. on Saturday in response to last month’s school shooting in Florida and other mass shootings.

“We have a responsibility for those of us as adults, we have a responsibility to stand up and protect our children,” said Turner.

Turner also chanted with the crowd “Now is the time” to “do the right thing.”

11:15 a.m.

Students chanted “enough is enough” and held up signs with slogans like “our ballots will stop bullets” at a rally in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last month.

More than 20,000 people filled the park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the “March for Our Lives” rally Saturday morning.

Others from the area traveled to Washington, D.C., where the main “March for Our Lives” event is being held. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft let over 100 people, including families of victims of the Parkland shooting, use the team’s charter plane for the trip.

Team spokesman Stacey James says astronaut Mark Kelly reached out to Kraft for the favor.

“It’s a hard thing to say no to, especially involving these victims,” James said.

10:40 a.m.

More than 20,000 people are expected at the “March for Our Lives” rally nearest the Florida school where last month’s deadly shooting occurred.

Police presence was heavy early Saturday at a park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as organizers set up and demonstrators streamed in.

Eighteen-year-old Sabrine Brismeur and 17-year-old Eden Kinlock came from schools 20 miles away to pass out water.

Kinlock said that may seem “like a small thing but it helps in the bigger picture.”

10:35 a.m.

The White House is applauding “the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights” at gun control marches in Washington and in cities around the nation.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says “keeping our children safe is a top priority” of President Donald Trump and points to his calls on Congress to pass legislation related to expanded background checks and school safety.

Trump is at his Florida home for the weekend. His motorcade took him to his West Palm Beach golf club on Saturday morning as hundreds of thousands of people were preparing for marches after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The president has ordered the Justice Department to ban bump stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.

9:10 a.m.

Dozens of protesters are rallying outside the U.S. Embassy in London in solidarity with the “March for Our Lives” protest against gun violence.

Students, families with children and other protesters raised placards reading “Protect kids not guns,” ”Never again,” and “Enough is enough” Saturday outside the new embassy building in south London.

Amnesty International U.K.’s director Kate Allen referred to the 1996 school killings at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, in which 16 students and a teacher were killed.

She said: “After our own school shooting at Dunblane, new gun ownership laws were introduced in Britain and that’s exactly what’s needed in the United States, where gun deaths are a national tragedy.”

Hundreds of marches are planned in U.S. cities and dozens of locations abroad.

1 a.m.

With thousands of demonstrators gathering in Washington, organizers of the March for Our Lives rally say the country has reached a historic emotional tipping point on gun violence.

They predict a half-million demonstrators Saturday near the U.S. Capitol building for a several-hour rally. That would match last year’s women’s march and make it one of the largest Washington protests since the Vietnam War era.

A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 69 percent of respondents and half of Republicans now favor stronger gun control laws.

Activists are looking to channel the energy of this youth-led initiative into the midterm congressional elections this fall with elements like on-site voter registration booths.

This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Tranquillity Park in Houston, Texas.

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The Latest: Youth across US rally for stricter gun control
The Latest: Youth across US rally for stricter gun control
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Source: AP HEADLINES

Trump: Good chance NKorean leader will do 'what is right'

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AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday there’s “a good chance” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will “do what is right for his people and for humanity” and make moves toward peace.

In a pair of morning tweets, Trump says he received a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping that a meeting Xi had with Kim this week “went very well.”

Trump says that according to Xi, the North Korean leader “looks forward” to meeting the American president. The White House has said Trump plans to meet Kim by May amid nuclear tensions between the two nations.

Trump has agreed to historic talks after South Korean officials relayed that Kim was committed to ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and was willing to halt nuclear and missile tests.

In the meanwhile, Trump says, “unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!” The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on companies across the globe to punish illicit trade with North Korea.

“For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!”

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Trump: Good chance NKorean leader will do 'what is right'
Trump: Good chance NKorean leader will do 'what is right'
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Woman shoots and wounds 4 at YouTube before killing herself

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AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (AP) — A woman opened fire at YouTube headquarters Tuesday, setting off a panic among employees and wounding at least four people before fatally shooting herself, police and witnesses said.

Officers and federal agents swarmed the company’s complex in the Bay Area city of San Bruno after receiving multiple 911 calls reporting gunfire.

Television news footage showed people leaving the building in a line, holding their arms in the air. Officers patted them down to make sure none had weapons.

The shooting left “four victims who have all been transported for gunshot related injuries and we have one subject who is deceased inside the building who we believe to be the shooter,” said San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini.

YouTube employee Vadim Lavrusik posted on Twitter that he heard gunshots and saw people running. He said he was barricaded in a room with co-workers before being safely evacuated.

Will Hudson said a friend who works for YouTube texted him about the shooter.

“I think there might be a shooter in my building,” read one text. “The fire alarm went off so we started to evacuate and then people (started) running saying there was a shooter.”

San Francisco General Hospital received three patients: a 36-year-old man in critical condition, a 32-year-old woman in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman in fair condition, a spokesman said.

The hospital said later that it did not expect to receive more patients. It was not immediately clear where the fourth gunshot victim had been sent for treatment.

Google, which owns the world’s biggest online video website, posted on Twitter that the company was coordinating with authorities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it also responded.

The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on a shooting and that officials were monitoring developments.

Hudson said his friend made it safely back to San Francisco and was in contact with his family. Hudson said he’s become used to hearing about gun violence but has never been so close to it.

“It just feels strange. It feels like it could really be anyone. That’s really the strangeness of it,” he said.

Calls and emails to YouTube representatives were not immediately returned.

This story has been corrected to remove a reference that patients were taken to Stanford Hospital because the hospital now says it gave incorrect information about receiving patients from the shooting.

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Woman shoots and wounds 4 at YouTube before killing herself
Woman shoots and wounds 4 at YouTube before killing herself
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Xi vs Trump: Who has the better hand in potential trade war?

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AP Photo/Andy Wong

BEIJING (AP) — The brewing China-U.S. trade conflict features two leaders who’ve expressed friendship but are equally determined to pursue their nation’s interests and their own political agendas.

But while President Donald Trump faces continuing churn in his administration and a tough challenge in midterm congressional elections, China’s Xi Jinping leads an outwardly stable authoritarian regime. Xi recently succeeded in pushing through a constitutional reform allowing him to rule for as long as he wishes while facing no serious electoral challenge.

A look at some of the issues that could determine the outcome of the trade spat:

FRIENDLY TALK

Although Trump sounded tough on the campaign trail and has challenged Beijing over trade and Taiwan, he professes admiration for his Chinese counterpart and complimented him on his ability to remove term limits on his presidential rule.

“President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade,” Trump said in a tweet Sunday. “China’s great and Xi is a great gentleman,” he said in remarks at a Republican fundraiser last month obtained by CNN.

Xi has generally limited his comments to emphasizing the benefits of a close China-U.S. relationship and thanking Trump in a phone call on March 10 for congratulating him on his obtaining a second term as president. A pair of summits between the leaders in the U.S. and China over the past year were also hailed by China as successes.

FAMILY BACKGROUNDS

Both Trump and Xi come from privileged backgrounds, although their routes to political power were decidedly different. Both, however, have built their reputations on a robust form of nationalism, with Trump promoting “America First” and Xi identifying himself with the “Chinese Dream” of rising prosperity accompanied by muscular defense and foreign policies.

Trump was born the son of a New York City real estate mogul and rose to the presidency on a populist wave after a career as a property developer and reality TV star. Xi’s father was a colleague of Mao Zedong, whose influence is believed to have aided his rise through a series of military, government and Communist Party positions before he was named party leader in 2012.

Both also show an affection for strong-man leadership, and while American democracy is far removed from China’s one-party authoritarian system, Trump’s verbal attacks on the mainstream media and certain judges have drawn criticism. They both also place a strong emphasis on the military, including increased defense budgets and an appreciation for military parades, two of which Xi has led during his time in office.

DRIVING FORCES

Xi’s plan to create Chinese global competitors in fields including robotics, electric cars and pharmaceuticals is seen as precipitating the current crisis, while Trump appears motivated by a desire to shore up America’s manufacturing strength.

Neither wants to be seen as backing down, and though Xi’s usually soft-spoken manner contrasts Trump’s trademark bravado, both “are thin-skinned bullies who place a lot of value on portraying strength,” said Liz Economy, a leading academic on China and author of “The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State.”

“This makes it difficult to ramp down in this one-on-one tariff death match,” although both have the capacity via Twitter or state media to trumpet their success and ignore any failings once the dispute has concluded, Economy said.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

While the current dispute has focused on trade, many other factors are in play, bringing out the bargaining qualities and transactional natures of the two leaders and their administrations. Opinions on who has the upper hand differ widely.

By pursuing the tariff threat and backing complaints about intellectual property theft, Trump has “successfully changed the fundamentals of … U.S.-China relations,” said Miles Yu Maochun, a China politics expert at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Yu also points to recent U.S. policy on North Korea, particularly Trump’s acceptance of an invitation to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as early as next month that appeared to catch Beijing off guard.

Shortly afterward, Kim paid an unexpected debut visit to China as leader in what some saw as an attempt by Beijing to reassert its centrality in resolving tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

CHINA’S CARDS

Yet, as North Korea’s most important trade partner and political ally, China wields considerable influence and its willingness to enforce United Nations sanctions has built up its credibility as a reliable international partner.

China also stands to bring additional pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy it claims, and which is closely linked to Washington despite technically unofficial ties.

While it responded mildly to Trump’s early outreach to the island’s independence-leaning government, recent moves such as the appointment of hawkish new National Security Adviser John Bolton, the passage of a U.S. law encouraging more intergovernmental exchanges and an agreement to pass Taiwan submarine manufacturing technology are hardening views among anti-American nationalists in China.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday warned against additional moves to strengthen relations with Taiwan, amid reports that Bolton could visit the island this year.

“Any attempt to play the ‘Taiwan card’ would only be futile,” spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said at a bi-weekly news conference. China, Ma said, would “not hesitate to protect our core interests.”

CHALLENGES AT HOME

While Yu cites domestic support for Trump’s trade approach to China, Xi can likely command even stronger backing at home for a muscular approach toward what Beijing portrays as a conflict resulting from U.S. unilateralism and hegemony.

Xi also faces no electoral challenge such as the one Trump’s Republican party will confront in midterm congressional elections later this year, when Trump’s handling of the U.S. economy and a host of other issues will be in the mix. Mindful of voters, especially in the agricultural and industrial sectors, Xi appears set to use such leverage for maximum gain.

“Xi will follow a tough but well directed path designed to hurt specific interests that will complain loudly,” said Joseph Fewsmith, a Boston University expert on Chinese foreign policy.

While Xi is broadly considered the most powerful leader since Mao, China “only appears to be united and confident in its approach,” said Economy, the academic, adding that the outside world has limited insight into policy debates within China.

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Xi vs Trump: Who has the better hand in potential trade war?
Xi vs Trump: Who has the better hand in potential trade war?
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Source: AP HEADLINES

Seoul: Koreas agree to hold summit talks at border in April

AP Photo
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to meet with South Korea’s president next month and impose a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests if his country holds talks with the United States, a senior South Korean official said Tuesday after returning from the North.

The agreements, which follow a flurry of cooperative steps taken by the Koreas during last month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, brightened prospects for a dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. over the North’s nuclear program.

Last year saw increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula, with Kim and President Donald Trump exchanging fiery rhetoric and crude insults over Kim’s barrage of weapons tests.

But there is still skepticism whether the developments can help establish genuine peace between the Koreas, which have a long history of failing to follow through with major rapprochement agreements.

The United States has also made it clear that it doesn’t want empty talks with North Korea and that all options, including military measures, remain on the table.

Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s presidential national security director, said after returning from North Korea on Tuesday that the two Koreas agreed to hold their summit at a tense border village in late April. He also said the leaders will establish a “hotline” communication channel between them to lower military tensions, and would speak together before the planned summit.

Chung led a 10-member South Korean delegation that met with Kim during a two-day visit to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. They were the first South Korean officials to meet the young North Korean leader since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011. Chung’s trip also was the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to North Korea in about 11 years.

The Koreas are to hold working-level talks ahead of the summit between Kim and liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in. If realized, it would be the third-ever such a meeting since the Koreas’ 1945 division. The two past summits, in 2000 and 2007, were both held in Pyongyang between Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, and two liberal South Korean presidents. They resulted in a series of cooperative projects that were scuttled during subsequent conservative administrations in South Korea.

Chung said North Korea also expressed willingness to hold a “candid dialogue” with the United States to discuss its nuclear disarmament and establish diplomatic relations. While such talks with the United States are underway, Chung said North Korea “made it clear that it won’t resume strategic provocations like additional nuclear tests or test-launches of ballistic missiles.”

North Korea also said it would not need to keep its nuclear weapons if military threats against it are removed and it receives a credible security guarantee, Chung said. He said the North promised not to use its nuclear and conventional weapons against South Korea.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea’s Sejong Institute said the agreements “potentially pave the way for meaningful dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang” and offer an opportunity to stably manage the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs.

“Getting North Korea to agree to halt additional nuclear weapons and missile tests while the dialogue goes on is the biggest achievement of the visit to Pyongyang by the South Korean presidential envoys,” he said.

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Seoul: Koreas agree to hold summit talks at border in April
Seoul: Koreas agree to hold summit talks at border in April
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Source: AP HEADLINES

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

AP Photo
AP Photo/Jim Mone

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to replace fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken until a special election in November, setting up his long-time and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018 election.

Smith was widely seen as Dayton’s top choice from the moment Franken announced his resignation last week. But her previous decision not to run for governor had raised questions about whether she would want to launch a Senate campaign that would be in the national spotlight.

Smith told reporters Wednesday that she intends to run to complete Franken’s term through 2020.

“I can tell you I shouldn’t be underestimated and if I weren’t confident I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said.

It’s not clear when Smith will head to Washington. Franken, who resigned under pressure from his own party after he was accused of improper behavior by at least eight women, announced last Thursday that he would resign “in the coming weeks.” His office said Tuesday that he had not yet set a final departure date.

The appointment won’t change the balance of power in the Senate.

Smith, 59, served as Dayton’s trusted chief of staff for four years before ascending to become his No. 2 when he needed a running mate in 2014. Dayton has long treated her as an equal in the office, and it was that deference that fueled speculation she was being groomed to succeed him.

Smith’s path to politics was unconventional. A native of New Mexico, she graduated from Stanford and earned an MBA from Dartmouth. A marketing job with General Mills brought her to Minnesota, where she eventually started her own marketing and political consulting firm.

She managed Ted Mondale’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1998, then ran the short-lived 2002 Senate campaign for his dad, former Vice President Walter Mondale. Smith served as chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak before eventually taking the same job with Dayton in 2011.

Smith, a soft-spoken, smiling presence at the Capitol, is credited with playing quiet but key roles in the response to the 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis and in the building of a new Vikings stadium. Dayton made her his point person on a massive public-private partnership to work with Mayo Clinic on an ambitious expansion in Rochester.

Next year’s race to fill the final two years of Franken’s term is certain to be one of the nation’s most closely watched and expensive, and Dayton was under pressure from fellow Democrats in Washington to ensure his pick would use the appointment as a springboard for that election. Republicans immediately floated former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a possible candidate, but many others were said to be weighing a race.

Smith may have competition from her own party as well, with several Democrats who had hoped to succeed Dayton likely to eye the Senate race as well. And her past work with Planned Parenthood in Minnesota and other Midwestern states, where she served as an executive, was sure to become a flash point with Republicans on the campaign trail.

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Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat
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Source: AP HEADLINES

Trump to Pennsylvania, but don't call it a campaign trip

AP Photo
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump is tiptoeing around the first congressional election of the new year as he heads to southwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday to hail the Republican tax cuts he signed last year.

Trump will appear with the Republican nominee for a Pittsburgh-area House seat. But the White House said Trump won’t mention Rick Saccone in his remarks. And the event isn’t actually in the 18th Congressional District, which holds the special election March 13.

Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t necessarily any more confident in the chances that lawyer and former Marine Conor Lamb can flip the district to their side.

The handling of the race shows both sides’ reluctance to put too much emphasis on one contest amid the high stakes of this midterm election year.

Saccone, a, 59-year-old state lawmaker, is trying to succeed Tim Murphy, who resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair. Lamb, 33, is looking for an upset in a union-heavy district Trump won by almost 20 points and where Murphy never got less than 58 percent of the vote in eight tries.

It’s not surprising that Trump, looking for wins after the embarrassment of losing a Senate seat last month in conservative Alabama, might embrace a favored Republican in Trump-friendly territory.

“We’re in Trump country here,” Saccone said in an interview Wednesday, framing his candidacy as an extension of the agenda that propelled Trump. “It’s only natural to have him come out to see his core constituency and have us celebrate his successes with him.”

Yet the White House would confirm only that Saccone will greet the president at the airport and attend Trump’s tour of a local factory.

Saccone, a retired Air Force officer with a doctorate in international affairs and experience in counterterrorism, said he didn’t know whether he’d be seated with the president or even get to spend any time one-on-one with him. “I don’t have any details,” he said after spending the day in Washington raising money alongside GOP House leaders.

Jesse Hunt of the National Republican Congressional Committee said, “We’re confident this seat will remain in Republican hands.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan, has opened offices in the district with paid canvassers. Political groups bankrolled by the billionaire Ricketts family – owners of the Chicago Cubs – are airing television ads on Saccone’s behalf. Those are not the moves of party titans completely sure of victory.

Democrats aren’t exactly countering with exuberance. At the national party’s House campaign headquarters, spokeswoman Meredith Kelly praised Lamb’s “long record of public service to our country.” But the party hasn’t included the 18th District on its official list of GOP-held targets, which now includes 91 seats. Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats to regain a majority in the House.

In 2017, Democrats managed surprisingly competitive races in four special congressional races in heavily Republican districts, only to lose all four. The trends pointed to Democratic enthusiasm, but still didn’t alter the partisan breakdown in Washington.

To flip that script, Lamb must “run a perfect campaign,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic campaign strategist who has run congressional races in the Pittsburgh area. “But it can be done,” Mikus added.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by about 70,000, a reflection of organized labor’s long influence in the district. But many of those union households embraced Trump’s populist, protectionist message in 2016, and Mikus noted they’re also culturally conservative.

Still, Lamb and Democrats believe they have an opening that wasn’t available before, given that Murphy was among the few Washington Republicans who voted with labor unions and regularly got their endorsements.

This time, the state AFL-CIO has endorsed Lamb, and he is trying to strike the tone Mikus says is necessary for a Democrat to win.

Lamb’s first television ad, set to air Thursday alongside the president’s arrival, notes he has refused “corporate PAC money” and believes both parties “need new leaders in Congress.” That’s a reference to his promise to not to back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker; the California Democrat remains unpopular in many congressional districts and the GOP regularly uses her as a cudgel on Democratic nominees.

The 30-second spot also tells voters that Lamb grew up in the district and says he “still loves to shoot.”

Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press reporters Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP

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Trump to Pennsylvania, but don't call it a campaign trip
Trump to Pennsylvania, but don't call it a campaign trip
{$excerpt:n}
Source: AP HEADLINES