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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

March 10, 2018 - 8:04 PM

Trump believes North Korea will keep word on missile tests

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Saturday he believes North Korea will abide by its pledge to suspend missile tests while he prepares for a summit by May with the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.

Trump noted in a tweet that North Korea has refrained from such tests since November and said Kim "has promised not to do so through our meetings."

"I believe they will honour that commitment," the president wrote.

The president continued the optimistic tone Saturday night when he led a rally for the Republican candidate in a special House race in western Pennsylvania. When he mentioned Kim's name, the crowd booed but Trump responded: "No, it's very positive ... no, after the meeting you may do that, but now we have to be very nice because let's see what happens, let's see what happens."

Trump shocked many inside and outside his administration Thursday when he told South Korean officials who had just returned from talks in North Korea that he would be willing to accept Kim's meeting invitation.


Trump: Don't fall for Democrat Lamb's moderate talk

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump told western Pennsylvania voters Saturday night that his new tariffs were saving the steel industry and urged them to send a Republican to the House so he can keep delivering those kinds of results.

The president lent his weight to Republican Rick Saccone in the final days of a surprisingly competitive special election outside Pittsburgh that could reverberate nationally ahead of the November midterm elections.

"We need our Congressman Saccone," Trump said, unabashedly framing the race as a tune-up for the GOP's efforts to maintain its control of Capitol Hill. Hitting peak campaign mode for himself, he revived many of his favourite 2016 riffs and even touted his planned 2020 slogan, "Keep America Great!"

But, the president warned, "we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda," repeatedly urging his backers to support Saccone and stave off an upset by Democrat Conor Lamb in a district the president won by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.

"The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb," Trump said, dismissing Lamb's efforts to run as a moderate Democrat. "He's never going to vote for us. He can say, 'I love President Trump.' ... I don't want to meet him. I might like him."


Vet in California attack had trouble after return from war

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The man who killed three women after a daylong siege at a Northern California veterans home had trouble adjusting to regular life after he returned from the Afghanistan war and had been kicked out of the treatment program designed to help him.

As family and friends of the victims tried to make sense of the tragedy, authorities offered little information Saturday about why Albert Wong, 36, attacked The Pathway Home and whether he targeted his victims. Those who knew the women said they had dedicated their lives to helping those suffering like Wong, and they would've been in a good position to assist him had Friday's hostage situation ended differently.

"We lost three beautiful people yesterday," Yountville Mayor John Dubar said. "We also lost one of our heroes who clearly had demons that resulted in the terrible tragedy that we all experienced here."

Authorities said Wong, a former Army rifleman who served a year in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and returned highly decorated, went to the campus about 50 miles (85 kilometres) north of San Francisco on Friday morning, slipping into a going-away party for some employees of The Pathway Home. He let some people leave, but kept the three.

Police said a Napa Valley sheriff's deputy exchanged gunshots with Wong around 10:30 a.m. but after that nothing was heard from him. From a vet-centre crafts building across the street from the PTSD centre, witness Sandra Woodford said she saw lawmen with guns trained outside, but said the only shots she heard were inside Pathway early Friday. "This rapid live-fire of rounds going on, at least 12," Woodford said.


Veterans home workers remembered as devoted caregivers

After a work conference, Maura Turner was looking forward to a girls' weekend with her close friend, Christine Loeber, a social worker and executive director of The Pathway Home that treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Turner went to Loeber's home in Yountville, California, on Friday and found the door locked. Soon after, she heard about a shooting and apparent hostage situation at the nearby veterans home where Pathway is located. And then came the devastating realization her friend was among the three women being held.

She called her husband, Tom Turner, in Dedham, Massachusetts.

"We heard the guy was a former patient and so I thought that was a positive," he said in a telephone interview Saturday with The Associated Press. "I figured he had to like her."

Loeber and two other women who worked for the program were killed, leaving the Turners reeling. The girls' weekend Maura Turner eagerly anticipated turned into a time to mourn her friend and await the arrival of Loeber's mother, who was travelling from the East Coast after getting word of her daughter's death.


Critics across partisan divide assail Florida's new gun law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The political and legal fallout from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to sign a sweeping gun bill into law following a school massacre was nearly immediate as the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit to stop it and political candidates in both parties criticized it.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who's running for Florida governor as a champion of gun rights, went on Fox News late Friday night to criticize the law, which raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21; extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns; and bans bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire.

"I think when you start getting into some of the blanket restrictions on people's Second Amendment rights, I think that that is constitutionally vulnerable. ... I mean think about it, you have an enumerated right in the Bill of Rights, there's really no precedent to just do a blanket ban on certain adults," DeSantis said on the show.

Grieving families and student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a shooter killed 17 people last month, worked feverishly in recent weeks to lobby a gun-friendly, Republican-run state government. The new law fell short of achieving a ban on assault-style weapons, but it creates a so-called guardian program enabling some teachers and other school employees to carry guns.

Five legislators seeking statewide office voted against it, as did the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi praised it, but other statewide candidates in the Legislature voted against it. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has expressed his displeasure with the age limits.


Spy's poisoning is latest case to stir suspicion of Russia

LONDON (AP) — Britain offers wealthy Russians many attractions: London's culture, bucolic countryside, exclusive schools, and a global financial hub. But for some former spies and foes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a move west has been lethal.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted of helping British agents and then freed in a spy swap, could become next in the disturbing pattern. Skripal, 66, and daughter, Yulia, 33, are in critical condition in England. British officials say they were exposed to a rare nerve agent.

Some lawmakers and a former top law enforcement official say the poisonings have hallmarks of deaths in the U.K. and the United States with links to Russia. They want an investigation to examine if enemies of the Russian government have been assassinated on British soil.

The deaths that have aroused suspicions include a man who was impaled on the spikes of an iron fence; a former Putin aide found in a Washington hotel room with blunt force injuries; and an ex-spy poisoned with radioactive tea.

British officials have not openly blamed the Russian government for the brazen assault on the Skripals in Salisbury. The father and daughter were found comatose on March 4 in the medieval city where Sergei Skripal had a home.


Gun background check system riddled with flaws

SEATTLE (AP) — Recent mass shootings have spurred Congress to try to improve the nation's gun background check system that has failed on numerous occasions to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

The problem with the legislation, experts say, is that it only works if federal agencies, the military, states, courts and local law enforcement do a better job of sharing information with the background check system — and they have a poor track record in doing so. Some of the nation's most horrific mass shootings have revealed major holes in the database reporting system, including massacres at Virginia Tech in 2007 and at a Texas church last year.

Despite the failures, many states still aren't meeting key benchmarks with their background check reporting that enable them to receive federal grants similar to what's being proposed in the current legislation.

"It's a completely haphazard system — sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't," said Georgetown University law professor Larry Gostin. "When you're talking about school children's lives, rolling the dice isn't good enough."

In theory, the FBI's background check database, tapped by gun dealers during a sale, should have a definitive list of people who are prohibited from having guns — people who have been convicted of crimes, committed to mental institutions, received dishonourable discharges or are addicted to drugs.


Amid little scrutiny, US military ramps up in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is bolstering its military presence in Afghanistan, more than 16 years after the war started. Is anyone paying attention?

Consider this: At a Senate hearing this past week on top U.S. security threats, the word "Afghanistan" was spoken exactly four times, each during introductory remarks. In the ensuing two hours of questions for intelligence agency witnesses, no senator asked about Afghanistan, suggesting little interest in a war with nearly 15,000 U.S. troops supporting combat against the Taliban.

It's not as if the war's end is in sight.

Just last month the bulk of an Army training brigade of about 800 soldiers arrived to improve the advising of Afghan forces. Since January, attack planes and other aircraft have been added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

But it's not clear that the war, which began in October 2001, is going as well as the U.S. had hoped seven months after President Donald Trump announced a new, more aggressive strategy. The picture may be clearer once the traditionally most intensive fighting season begins in April or May. Over the winter, American and Afghan warplanes have focused on attacking illicit drug facilities that are a source of Taliban revenue.


Trump tariffs may imperil a delicate global economic rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) — Things had been going along so nicely.

Over the past year, the major regions of the world finally shed the scars of a global financial crisis and grew in unison for the first time in a decade. Worldwide growth is expected to hit 3.9 per cent this year — the best pace since 2011 — and the International Monetary Fund says most countries are sharing in the prosperity.

But President Donald Trump's announcement Thursday that the United States would impose heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminum — with some countries potentially exempted — suddenly raised a fear that few had anticipated: That U.S. tariffs could trigger a chain of tit-for-tat retaliation by America's trading partners that could erupt into a full-blown trade war and possibly threaten the global economy.

Given how far many countries have come since the painful years of debt crises and a crushing recession, the threat posed by the tariffs struck many as an ill-considered risk.

"Tariffs threaten to strangle the global golden goose," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "The global economy is on the same page for the first time in over a decade. This threatens to derail it."


Disney's 'Black Panther' reaches $1 billion globally

Disney's megahit "Black Panther" has passed the $1 billion mark at the global box office.

The studio said Saturday that the milestone is based on Disney's estimate of ticket sales. The announcement comes on the 26th day of release for the blockbuster. The movie is directed by Ryan Coogler and stars Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan.

Disney notes that "Black Panther" is the fifth film in its Marvel universe to reach the milestone. The others are "The Avengers," ''Avengers: Age of Ultron," ''Iron Man 3," and "Captain America: Civil War."

The film has made $521 million domestically, becoming the No. 2 superhero release of all time, surpassing "The Dark Knight."

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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