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

February 01, 2018 - 8:04 PM

Trump will clear way for publication of classified memo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Over the strong objections of his own Justice Department, President Donald Trump will clear the way for the publication of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that Republicans say shows improper use of surveillance by the FBI, White House officials said Thursday.

The memo, prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee, is said to allege FBI misconduct in the initial stages of its investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. Trump's Justice Department and Democrats furiously lobbied Trump to stop the release, saying it could harm national security and mislead the public.

A White House official said Congress would probably be informed of the decision Friday, adding Trump was "OK" with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out. The officials were not authorized to be quoted about private deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FBI's stance means Trump, by allowing the memo's release, would be openly defying his own FBI director. It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago fired his predecessor, James Comey.

Comey weighed in on Twitter Thursday night, writing, "All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would."

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Van carrying gas tanks plows into pedestrians in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (AP) — A minivan has plowed into a busy pedestrian area in downtown Shanghai, hospitalizing 18 people.

Local media reports say the vehicle was carrying six people and several tanks of gas when it veered into a sidewalk near People's Park in central Shanghai. The cause is under investigation.

Videos on social media show people lying unconscious on the pavement next to a Starbucks cafe and firefighters trying to extinguish a blaze inside the van.

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Natalie Wood's drowning now considered a 'suspicious death'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — New witnesses have emerged in the 1981 drowning of actress Natalie Wood, prompting investigators to deem it a "suspicious death" and name her former husband, 87-year-old actor Robert Wagner, a "person of interest," Los Angeles sheriff's officials said Thursday.

For nearly four decades, mystery and speculation have swirled around the death of the actress who was nominated for three Academy Awards and starred in "West Side Story" and "Rebel Without a Cause."

She was on a yacht with Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and the boat captain on Thanksgiving weekend of 1981. After a night of drinking, her body was found floating in the waters off Southern California's Catalina Island. She was 43.

Investigators initially ruled it an accident but reopened the case in 2011 to see whether Wagner or anyone else played a role after the boat's captain said he heard the couple arguing the night of her disappearance. The coroner's office amended Wood's death certificate the next year to include "drowning and other undetermined factors."

In a statement Thursday, sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said new witnesses interviewed since the case was reopened gave statements that "portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night."

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. TRUMP SET TO CLEAR RELEASE OF CLASSIFIED MEMO

White House officials say the move will come despite the strong objections of Trump's own Justice Department to the release of classified material on the Russia investigation.

2. YOUNG SUSPECT IN LA SCHOOL SHOOTING

A girl believed to be 12 years old is under arrest after four students are shot and wounded at a Los Angeles middle school.

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LA school shooting was accidental, 12-year-old in custody

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A shooting at a Los Angeles middle school classroom Thursday that left one boy in critical condition, injured four others and had panicked parents in tears was an accident, police said.

The shooting was reported just before 9 a.m. and within minutes a 12-year-old girl was taken into custody without incident. Police interviewed her and by evening they announced that they would book her on a charge of negligent discharge of a firearm on school grounds.

The determination capped a frantic day at Salvador B. Castro Middle School in downtown Los Angeles and corroborated what some students told reporters after the lockdown was lifted and they were reunited with parents on the school's athletic field.

In a telephone interview with his mother alongside, Jordan Valenzuela, 12, told The Associated Press he was in the classroom next door when he heard a loud bang. He said he talked to the girl just after the shooting and she was sobbing.

"She was like, 'I didn't mean to. I had the gun in my backpack and I didn't know it was loaded and my backpack fell and the gun went off,'" he said.

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Cuba state media: Fidel Castro's son has killed himself

HAVANA (AP) — The oldest son of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro killed himself on Thursday after months of treatment for depression, state media reported. He was 68.

Official website Cubadebate said Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart had been in a "deeply depressed state." A brief note read on state television said his treatment had "required an initial hospitalization then outpatient follow-up."

The oldest son of Cuba's late revolutionary leader was known for his resemblance to his father, earning him the nickname Fidelito or Little Fidel.

Castro Diaz-Balart studied nuclear physics in the former Soviet Union and served as scientific adviser to the Council of State. He was vice-president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He previously led Cuba's nuclear program.

Castro Diaz-Balart was born to Fidel Castro's first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, a woman from Cuba's aristocracy who Fidel married in his youth before beginning the revolutionary struggle that later brought him and his brother Raul to power.

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Federal judge knocks down Florida's voting ban for ex-felons

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — In a ruling that could have reverberations on this year's crucial elections, a federal judge Thursday ruled that Florida's current ban on former felons voting is unconstitutional and needs to be changed as soon as possible.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a blistering ruling that says the state's current process to restore voting rights — which can take years — is flawed. The lawsuit was filed last year against Gov. Rick Scott by a voting rights organization on behalf of several people who had completed their prison sentences but had their request for voting rights turned down.

Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said he will decide soon what Florida should do to fix the process. His 43-page ruling blasted Scott and state officials for the current system in place.

"A person convicted of a crime may have long ago exited the prison cell and completed probation," Walker wrote. "Her voting rights, however, remain locked in a dark crypt. Only the state has the key — but the state has swallowed it."

John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, defended the process and suggested that an appeal was likely.

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GOP legislators gather in search of winning 2018 agenda

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia (AP) — Congressional Republicans in sweater vests and fleece gathered at a West Virginia resort Thursday in search of a winning election-year agenda, facing the notion that the best they have to offer in 2018 may be a recitation of the tax cuts approved in 2017 — and well aware of the looming threat of another government shutdown.

The legislators had forums on topics such as infrastructure, national security and the economy — but noticeably not on immigration, the major issue that bedevils them.

They got a pep talk from President Donald Trump reliving passage of the tax bill and highlighting other GOP victories from his first year in office. But the president offered no clear strategy for resolving the immigration-and-spending standoff that produced a three-day government shutdown in January and threatens a second shutdown next week. And he offered no new policy details on infrastructure, prescription drug prices or other items he's mentioned as ripe for attention in 2018.

As for an immigration strategy, Trump said: "We have to get help from the other side, or we have to elect many more Republicans." He then proceeded to take jabs at Democrats just days after calling for bipartisan unity in his State of the Union address.

Trump took a similar tack at a second GOP event Thursday night in Washington.

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Rise of 'morality schools' for Chinese women sparks outcry

HONG KONG (AP) — The video shows students at the so-called "female morality school" in northeastern China getting up at 4:30 a.m. to scrub floors and being taught not to resist if their husbands beat them.

Shot with a hidden camera and posted on a popular Chinese video website, it sparked a storm of criticism of the school and highlighted complaints that the status of women is deteriorating under the rule of a Communist Party that promised them equality.

In the recording, students at the Fushun Traditional Culture School were shown being told to put aside career aspirations and, in one instructor's words, "shut your mouths and do more housework." One group of students was shown practicing bowing to apologize to their husbands.

"Don't fight back when beaten. Don't talk back when scolded. And, no matter what, don't get divorced," a female teacher says in the post on Pear Video, a Beijing-based online platform for short videos.

"Women should just stay at the bottom level of the society and not aspire for more," another teacher says.

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Griffin scores 24 in Detroit's 104-102 win over Memphis

DETROIT (AP) — Blake Griffin was Detroit's best player in his debut with the Pistons.

Griffin had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and although his new team is still very much a work in progress, the Pistons edged the Memphis Grizzlies 104-102 on Thursday night.

Detroit traded for Griffin earlier in the week. The Pistons haven't had much time to work with him, but they were clearly a better team when he played against the Grizzlies.

"We were plus-23 with him on the floor in 35 minutes, so we were fairly dominant in that time," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't know why we haven't gotten to all this in the hour and 15 minutes we've had together, but we've really got to get our spacing down and understand where we want people to be."

Griffin's teammates looked uncertain at times, but Detroit was able to outlast a Memphis team that is without Tyreke Evans and Mike Conley.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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