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

November 06, 2017 - 8:06 PM

Texas church gunman sent hostile text messages before attack

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church had a history of domestic violence and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist, before the attack in which he fired at least 450 rounds at helpless worshippers, authorities said Monday.

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in state history, the military acknowledged that it did not submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. If his past offences had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun.

Investigators also revealed that sheriff's deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Devin Patrick Kelley's home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople were reeling from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.

"Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family," said the pastor's wife Sherri Pomeroy, who, like her husband, was out of town when the attack happened. "Now most of our church family is gone."

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Trump lands in South Korea to pressure the North

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AP) — President Donald Trump arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, beginning a two-day visit centred on pressuring the nation's neighbour to the north to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Trump has repeatedly struck a hard line against Pyongyang and South Korea will be warily watching him as he is poised to deliver bellicose warnings in the shadow of the North Korea. The president refused to rule out eventual military action against the north and exhorted dictator Kim Jong Un to stop weapons testing, calling the recent launches of missiles over American allies like Japan "a threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability."

"We will not stand for that," Trump said at a Monday news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "The era of strategic patience is over. Some people say my rhetoric is very strong but look what has happened with very weak rhetoric in the last 25 years."

Trump landed at an air force base where he was greeted by dignitaries and a 21-cannon salute. He is then poised to travel to visit Camp Humphreys, a military base about 40 miles south of Seoul. U.S. and South Korean officials have said the base visit is meant to underscore the countries' ties and South Korea's commitment to contributing to its own defence. Burden-sharing is a theme Trump has stressed ever since his presidential campaign.

But he will forgo the customary trip to the demilitarized zone separating north and south — a pilgrimage made by every U.S. presidents except one since Ronald Reagan as a demonstration of solidarity with the South. A senior administration recently dubbed the border trip as "a bit of a cliche" and several other members of the administration, including Vice-President Mike Pence, have visited the DMZ this year. And the White House believes that Trump has already made his support of South Korea crystal clear.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

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

1. 'NOW MOST OF OUR CHURCH FAMILY IS GONE'

Sherri Pomeroy speaks to the sadness engulfing close-knit Sutherland Springs, Texas, a day after a gunman murdered 26 churchgoers there — including Pomeroy's daughter Annabelle.

2. TRAIL OF VIOLENCE FOLLOWED TEXAS GUNMAN

Devin Patrick Kelley was kicked out of the Air Force for abusing his then-wife and her child, later charged with animal cruelty and accused of menacing a girlfriend.

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House tax panel adopts GOP changes after day of bickering

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a day of partisan bickering over whether the Republicans' sweeping tax plan would truly help the middle class, a key House panel on Monday approved late changes. Lawmakers restored the tax exemption for employees receiving child care benefits from their companies, but also put new requirements on a tax credit used by working people of modest means.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 24-16 along party lines to adopt the amendment from its chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. The changes were made to the complex GOP tax legislation put forward last Thursday.

The vote on the amendment capped a rancorous marathon session in which Republicans and Democrats argued heatedly over the nearly $6 trillion plan. Democrats repeatedly lodged objections to the bill, especially to its limits on prized deductions for homeowners and its repeal of the child adoption credit and the deduction for medical expenses.

It was the first of what are expected to be several days of work on the bill, as Republicans drive to push legislation through Congress and to President Donald Trump's desk by Christmas.

Republicans focused on findings by Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation that the bill would lower taxes across all income levels over the next several years.

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Violence followed Texas church gunman after high school

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (AP) — Wherever Devin Patrick Kelley went after graduating from high school, a trail of violence followed.

In New Mexico, Kelley was kicked out of the Air Force following a court-martial two years after he enlisted for abusing his wife and reportedly hitting her child hard enough to fracture his skull. In Colorado, he was charged with misdemeanour animal cruelty after someone saw him punch a dog several times. And in Texas, sheriff's deputies were called to his parents' house after his girlfriend told a friend he was abusing her.

Authorities say Kelley opened fire Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.

According to their investigation, Kelley entered the small church during worship services dressed in black tactical gear and carrying an assault rifle. He fired it as he walked down the centre aisle, shooting people who had no way to escape.

Authorities have said the suspect's mother-in-law attended the church and she'd gotten threatening texts from him. Kelley's parents and other relatives did not return numerous messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. But according to military officials and authorities in three states, the 26-year-old Kelley had a history of threatening loved ones with violence.

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Relative: Pregnant woman, 3 children, in-laws slain in Texas

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — As usual, John Holcombe posted his Sunday school lesson online a day ahead. It was about an Old Testament miracle.

Holcombe was expecting a small miracle of his own. His wife, a widow and mother of five, was pregnant with their first child. But the following morning, his family would bear an unspeakable burden: nearly a third of the fatalities in Texas' worst mass shooting.

The massacre inside their church in the tiny Texas town of Sutherland Springs spared Holcombe's life, but not the lives of his wife, three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.

They were among 26 people fatally shot during the shooting rampage Sunday that also killed several members of at least one other extended family, a couple visiting for the first time, the pastor's teenage daughter and other church goers. Investigators said the victims ranged in age from 18 months old to 77 years old. Hundreds of shell casings and 15 magazines that hold 30 rounds were found at the church, authorities said.

Holcombe and his 36-year-old wife, Crystal, had recently married, said Julius Kepper, who lives about two blocks from the church.

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Texas killer was able to buy guns because of Air Force lapse

The gunman who slaughtered 26 people at a Texas church was able to buy weapons because the Air Force failed to report his domestic violence conviction to the federal database that is used to conduct background checks on would-be gun purchasers, authorities said Monday.

Federal officials said the Air Force didn't submit Devin Patrick Kelley's criminal history even though it was required to do so by Pentagon rules.

Kelley, 26, was found guilty of assault in an Air Force court-martial in 2012 for abusing his wife and her child and was given 12 months' confinement followed by a bad-conduct discharge in 2014. That same year, authorities said, he bought the first of four weapons.

Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes like assault should be submitted to the FBI's Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.

It's the kind of lapse that gun-control advocates say points to loopholes and failures with the background check system.

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Are all Russia ties now sinister, or are some just business?

MOSCOW (AP) — A shipping company partly owned by President Donald Trump's commerce secretary is one of the few in the world that can transport liquefied petroleum gas in cold and icy conditions. Russia is known for its brutal winters as well as its giant, state-controlled oil and gas producers.

So, for years, Wilbur Ross' company has been moving LPG for a Russian gas giant.

But now, in what might seem almost an echo of the Red Scare that lasted in America for generations, this business relationship is seen as tainted, an ominous connection to a country that unleashed cyberwar against American democracy and the 2016 election that put Trump in the White House.

Are all connections to Russia now suspect? Or are they sometimes merely an inconvenient consequence of doing business in a country where major corporations often are controlled by the Kremlin?

The latest tie between Russia, Trump and his campaign and administration officials came to light Sunday with news that the U.S. commerce secretary is a part owner of Navigator Holdings, a shipping company that transports LPG produced by Sibur, a big Russian company with ties to the Kremlin.

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Why debt from GOP tax cuts might impose a painful price

WASHINGTON (AP) — When House Republicans proposed their tax-cut plan last week, critics noted that it came with a towering price: It would swell the nation's debt by $1.5 trillion at a time when the economy is already faring well on its own and a vast generation of retiring baby boomers threatens to strain the Social Security and Medicare programs.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress argue that their plan, which would shrink the corporate tax rate and end taxes for most wealthy estates, would accelerate economic growth. It would do so, they say, by leaving more after-tax money for businesses to invest and to increase pay for their employees, who would then spend more and help invigorate the economy.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has contended that the proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent from 35 per cent could, by itself, enlarge the economy by up to $1.2 trillion over the long run and eventually add $4,000 a year to average household income. Those claims were promptly dismissed as wildly optimistic by Democrats and many economists.

Adding to the government's debts poses risks, too: More debt could drive interest rates up as the government competes with private borrowers for credit. It could also eventually require cuts to popular spending programs. And it might leave policymakers with less ammunition the next time a recession strikes.

For now, the American economy is already gliding along at a decent pace. Growth has come in at a solid annual rate of 3 per cent or better in each of the past two quarters. Employers have added jobs for a record 85 straight months. Corporate profits are strong. And the unemployment rate is 4.1 per cent, its lowest level in nearly 17 years.

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Growing homeless camps contrast with West Coast tech wealth

SEATTLE (AP) — In a park in the middle of a leafy, bohemian neighbourhood where homes list for close to $1 million, a tractor's massive claw scooped up the refuse of the homeless - mattresses, tents, wooden frames, a wicker chair, an outdoor propane heater. Workers in masks and steel-shanked boots plucked used needles and mounds of waste from the underbrush.

Just a day before, this corner of Ravenna Park was an illegal home for the down and out, one of 400 such encampments that have popped up in Seattle's parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. Now, as police and social workers approached, some of the dispossessed scurried away, vanishing into a metropolis that is struggling to cope with an enormous wave of homelessness.

That struggle is not Seattle's alone. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. All along the coast, elected officials are scrambling for solutions.

"I've got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I've got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can't afford housing," said Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien. "There's nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up."

The rising numbers of homeless people have pushed abject poverty into the open like never before and have overwhelmed cities and nonprofits. The surge in people living on the streets has put public health at risk, led several cities to declare states of emergency and forced cities and counties to spend millions - in some cases billions - in a search for solutions.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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