AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT - InfoNews

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

March 11, 2018 - 8:04 PM

2 killed, 3 critically injured in NYC helicopter crash

NEW YORK (AP) — A helicopter crashed into New York City's East River Sunday night and flipped upside down in the water, killing two of the six people aboard and leaving three others in critical condition, officials said.

Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter shows the red helicopter land hard in the water and then capsize, its rotors slapping at the water.

The helicopter, a private charter hired for a photo shoot, went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence. One person, the pilot, freed himself and was rescued by a tugboat, officials said.

The passengers were recovered by police and fire department divers, who had to remove them from tight harnesses while they were upside down, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

"It took awhile for the drivers to get these people out. They worked very quickly as fast as they could," Nigro said. "It was a great tragedy that we had here."

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Trump backs off call for raising minimum age to buy gun

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Sunday pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers and reiterated its call to improve the background check system as part of a new plan to prevent school shootings.

But in a move sure to please the gun lobby, the plan does not include a push to increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21, which President Donald Trump had repeatedly championed.

Instead, a new federal commission on school safety will examine the age issue, as well as a long list of others topics, as part of a longer-term look at school safety and violence.

The plan forgoes an endorsement of comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, which the president, at times, seemed to embrace.

In a call with reporters Sunday evening, administration officials described the plan as a fulfilment of Trump's call for action in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 dead.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

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

1. TRUMP AIMS TO ARM TEACHERS WITH NEW GUN PLAN

The president's proposal to combat school shootings also includes improving background checks.

2. HELICOPTER CRASHES IN NYC'S EAST RIVER

At least two people are dead, and one is rescued in the water north of Roosevelt Island, the mayor's office says.

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NCAA on the bubble: Virginia gets top billing for March

From the top seed in the NCAA Tournament — Virginia — to those that barely made it into the bracket — Arizona State and Syracuse — it feels as though everyone involved in March Madness is on the bubble this year.

College basketball is in trouble.

The brackets came out Sunday, replete with the usual fanfare that accompanies America's biggest office pool. Villanova, Kansas and Xavier joined Virginia as No. 1 seeds, but they, along with the other 64 contenders, will play against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season in which bribes and payoffs made bigger headlines than 3s and layups.

The tournament begins Tuesday with opening-round games featuring a matchup of bubble teams UCLA and St. Bonaventure, then kicks into full swing Thursday and Friday at eight sites around the country.

The Final Four is March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio. Shortly after that, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by an FBI probe that led to charges last fall against assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others.

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'Fake news' smear takes hold among politicians at all levels

An Idaho state lawmaker urges her constituents to submit entries for her "fake news awards." The Kentucky governor tweets #FAKENEWS to dismiss questions about his purchase of a home from a supporter. An aide to the Texas land commissioner uses the phrase to downplay the significance of his boss receiving donations from employees of a company that landed a multimillion-dollar contract.

President Donald Trump's campaign to discredit the news media has spread to officials at all levels of government, who are echoing his use of the term "fake news" as a weapon against unflattering stories.

It's become ubiquitous as a signal to a politician's supporters to ignore legitimate reporting and hard questions, as a smear of the beleaguered and dwindling local press corps, and as a way for conservatives to push back against what they call biased stories.

"When Trump announced he was going to do his fake news awards, a group of us conservative legislators said, 'We need to do that, too,'" said Idaho state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who has urged supporters to send examples of "biased, misleading and fake news" and plans to announce her awards March 18. "We need people to wake up to the fact that just because it's on the front page of the Boise newspaper doesn't mean it's 100 per cent true."

The winners of the contest, it turns out, will be announced at the end of Sunshine Week, an annual focus by the nation's news media on government transparency and the importance of a free press.

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Critics of peace deal dominate Colombia election

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia's fragile peace deal looked increasingly under threat Sunday as right-wing parties critical of the accord performed well in congressional elections seen as a dry run for a hotly contested presidential ballot in May, while the current president's party slumped.

The vote was the first time former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were competing after disarming as part of the 2016 peace deal for ending a half century of guerrilla war.

As expected, support for their radical agenda was soundly defeated, with FARC candidates getting less than 0.5 per cent of the overall vote. That means their political party, also called FARC, will get only the 10 seats guaranteed them by the peace accord.

"The FARC are in a tough spot," said Leon Valencia, a former combatant who now runs the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, a think-tank . "A long war has generated lots of fear and rancour towards them."

By contrast, many of the accord's critics picked up seats, with the Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe headed to being the biggest bloc in the Senate.

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Xi Jinping's rule shatters hopes for China's liberalization

BEIJING (AP) — When American scholar Orville Schell first visited China in 1975, Mao Zedong was leading the country through the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, when Chinese were being shamed, beaten and even killed for perceived political mistakes.

Four years later, Schell returned to a nation transformed. Mao was dead, and the country was pulling itself together under reformist Deng Xiaoping. Some Chinese people even plastered posters on a wall in central Beijing, criticizing past excesses and advocating democracy.

"China had suddenly gone from being this implacable enemy that was closed to any contact to being quite open and receptive to interacting," recalled Schell, now the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the New York-based Asia Society.

That opening, followed by Deng's market-style economic reforms in 1979, ignited Western hopes that — despite the ruling Communist Party's insistence that it would never share power — China was destined to become a democracy.

Those hopes are quickly dissipating with the rise of party leader Xi Jinping, who many once thought would be the next great reformer. Xi is now poised to rule indefinitely after China's rubber-stamp legislature voted Sunday to eliminate presidential term limits.

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Trump administration's words, deeds on Africa are colliding

NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK, Kenya (AP) — On the outskirts of a sprawling reserve of Kenyan grasslands where endangered animals roam wild, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lavished praise on an American-funded forensics lab that tracks down elephant-poachers for prosecution, and urged aggressive action in Africa on conservation.

Yet earlier this month, the Trump administration quietly lifted the U.S. ban on importing African elephant trophies, to the dismay of environmental groups who said it sends precisely the wrong message.

U.S. words and deeds are colliding as Tillerson travels across Africa. On trade policy, HIV/AIDS and humanitarian aid, the United States at times seems at odds with itself, muddying efforts to show it wants the continent to flourish and is here to help.

In the case of the elephants, conservationists appeared to have a powerful ally in President Donald Trump, who intervened personally last year to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from lifting the Obama-era ban on tusks imported from Zambia and Zimbabwe. Trump took to Twitter to call the practice a "horror show."

At the forensics lab at Nairobi National Park, the only such lab in east and central Africa, Tillerson agreed Sunday when famed conservationist Richard Leakey warned that the "huge interest" in wildlife products such as elephant and rhinoceros parts was fueling the international trafficking trade.

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Democrat seeks coal-country help in Pa. House election

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Conor Lamb went to Pennsylvania's coal country for help in the final days before the first congressional election of 2018, telling union members Sunday that he won't forget their support in a close race widely viewed as a key test of support for Republicans ahead of November's midterms.

Lamb's race against Republican Rick Saccone has crystallized the debate over whether a younger, charismatic Democrat appealing to win back traditionally Democratic voters can overcome a veteran Republican counting on party loyalty to carry him to victory in a GOP-leaning district at a time when President Donald Trump is pushing hard for the Republican, but remains a divisive figure.

Lamb, wearing muddy work boots, jeans and a green fleece top, told those inside a packed cinderblock building on the fairgrounds that keeping promises to fully fund labour union pensions, Medicare and Social Security is "non-negotiable." He attacked Republicans as forgetting what it means to honour a promise.

"People have paid into these programs over the course of a lifetime," Lamb told more than 300 retired coal miners and Democratic activists in Waynesburg, 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. "I do not believe, as (House Speaker) Paul Ryan does, that these are entitlements or another form of welfare."

Trump has visited the district twice — including a rally Saturday night — in an effort to buoy Republican Saccone in a southwestern Pennsylvania district Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Republican groups have heavily outspent Democratic groups on the race, a sign of the GOP's fear of losing.

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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.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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