Somber times in tourist haven after nightclub massacre
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After days of turmoil in a city that’s supposed to be a happy paradise for tourists, residents paused with the president and vice president to mourn victims of the horrific massacre at a gay nightclub.
Friends and relatives of Kimberly “KJ” Morris, a bouncer at Pulse Orlando, gathered under a cemetery awning to say goodbye to the woman, one of 49 people killed after Omar Mateen began shooting into the pulsating, dancing crowd early Sunday.
Jessica Frazier, 29, of Orlando was among the mourners at Morris’ funeral, held as other shooting victims were being cremated.
“She was always very positive, no matter what was going on,” Frazier said.
Elsewhere, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden knelt to place white flowers at a memorial to victims. They also met privately with survivors and victims’ families, the club owner and staff, with Obama telling them he was inspired by their courage and felt their pain.
Losses at Orlando’s ‘Pulse’ nightclub felt in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Ever since last week’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, people in Puerto Rico have been frantically calling relatives in Central Florida, scrambling to book flights and making funeral arrangements.
The massacre of 49 people early Sunday by a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle shocked people worldwide. But it has been felt particularly hard in this U.S. island territory because so many victims were either born here or were just a generation removed.
As remains of some victims began arriving Thursday in Puerto Rico for burial, people around the island mourned what felt like an attack in their backyard.
“It’s a pain that touches all of us,” Maritza Lopez said as she hugged friends at a San Juan vigil for people killed at Pulse. “Orlando has become a second Puerto Rico.”
Puerto Ricans flocked by the tens of thousands to Orlando and nearby areas as the island struggled through a troubled decade.
10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
1. ORLANDO NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE REVERBERATES IN PUERTO RICO
The killings of 49 people early Sunday has been felt particularly hard in the U.S. island territory because so many victims were either born there or were just a generation removed.
2. WHICH REGION RIVEN WITH CONFLICTS HAS LONG BEEN ON HILLARY CLINTON’S RADAR
From her time as first lady to her globe-hopping travel as secretary of state, the Democrat has an extensive background in dealing with the Middle East.
UK mourns Jo Cox as group says suspect had far-right ties
BIRSTALL, England (AP) — Campaigning in Britain’s European Union membership referendum remained suspended Friday as the country paused in shock at the daylight slaying of lawmaker Jo Cox.
A U.S. civil rights group said the man suspected of the gun and knife attack had links to an American white supremacist organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it has records showing Thomas Mair was a supporter of the National Alliance. The center said Mair purchased a manual from the group in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.
On its website, the center published copies of a receipt showing that a Thomas Mair of West Yorkshire — the county where Cox and her suspected killer both lived — bought publications including “Chemistry of Powder and Explosives” and “Improvised Munitions Handbook.”
The National Alliance was founded by William Pierce, whose book “The Turner Diaries” has been called a grisly blueprint for a bloody race war. Timothy McVeigh based the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, which killed 168 people, on a truck-bombing described in the book.
In internal document, US diplomats demand Syria action
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dozens of State Department employees have endorsed an internal document that advocates U.S. military action to pressure Syria’s government into accepting a cease-fire and engaging in peace talks, officials said Thursday. The position is at odds with U.S. policy.
The “dissent channel cable” was signed by about 50 mostly mid-level department officials who deal with U.S. policy in Syria, according to officials who have seen the document. It expresses clear frustration with America’s inability to halt a civil war that has killed perhaps a half-million people and contributed to a worldwide refugee crisis, and goes to the heart of President Barack Obama’s reluctance to enter the fray.
Obama called for regime change early on in the conflict and threatened military strikes against Syrian forces after blaming President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons in 2013. But Obama only has authorized strikes against the Islamic State and other U.S.-designated terror groups in Syria.
While Washington has provided military assistance to some anti-Assad rebels, it has favored diplomacy over armed intervention as a means of ushering Syria’s leader out of power. A series of partial cease-fires in recent months have only made the war slightly less deadly, and offered little hope of a peace settlement.
The dissent document was transmitted internally in a confidential form and since has been classified, said officials who weren’t authorized to discuss such material and insisted on anonymity. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both quoted from the document Thursday, saying they had seen or obtained copies.
Lawsuits may offer fodder for Trump, Clinton attack ads
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both trying to prevent the public release of videos that are critical to legal cases involving the candidates.
Trump’s lawyers are intensifying efforts to stop the release of video of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee testifying under oath in a fraud lawsuit about the now-defunct Trump University. They told a federal judge in San Diego late Wednesday that the video could be used by the media and Trump’s opponents during the presidential campaign.
Lawyers for a top Clinton aide used similar arguments to persuade another judge to keep video depositions sealed in a lawsuit about the likely Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server while she was the nation’s top diplomat.
While the arguments are similar, judges may treat them differently.
In the Clinton case, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled last month that transcripts of all depositions be made public but that audio and video be sealed.
No food, no teachers, violence in failing Venezuela schools
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Maria Arias slipped her notebooks into her backpack, scrounged for a banana to share with her brother and sister, and set off for high school through narrow streets so violent taxis will not come here for any price. She hoped at least one of her teachers would show up.
But her 7 a.m. art class was canceled when the instructor called in sick. History class was suspended. There was no gym class because the coach had been shot dead weeks earlier. And in the afternoon, her Spanish teacher collected homework and then sent the students home to meet a gang-imposed curfew.
“It’s a trap,” the slight 14-year-old with pink lipstick complained as she sat in the shade of a picked-over mango tree at the school’s entrance. “You risk your life to be here and end up waiting around for hours doing nothing. But you have to keep coming because it’s the only way out.”
The soaring crime and economic chaos stalking Venezuela is also ripping apart a once up-and-coming school system, robbing poor students such as Maria of any chance at a better life. Officially, Venezuela has canceled 16 school days since December, including Friday classes because of an energy crisis.
In reality, Venezuelan children have missed an average of 40 percent of class time, a parent group estimates, as a third of teachers skip work on any given day to wait in food lines. At Maria’s school, so many students have fainted from hunger that administrators told parents to keep their children home if they have no food. And while the school locks its gate each morning, armed robbers, often teens themselves, still manage to break in and stick up kids between classes.
Philippine poor get hit early in Duterte-inspired crackdown
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — In a crackdown bearing the Philippine president-elect’s name, police have rounded up hundreds of children or their parents to enforce a night curfew for minors, and taken away drunk and shirtless men roaming metropolitan Manila’s slums. The poor, who were among Rodrigo Duterte’s strongest supporters, are getting a foretaste of the war against crime he has vowed to wage.
During a surprise sweep witnessed by The Associated Press last week, a girl who appeared to be about 10 years old was dragged to a police van for curfew violation. She protested that she had been outside only to take out the garbage. A boy about the same age cried, “I do not want to go!” A slightly older-looking boy, looking terrified, dropped the box of a rice and beef meal he’d just bought when police apprehended him.
A bewildered mother sleeping on a sidewalk with her toddler wailed when a social worker took her son, and she was dragged to a police vehicle. “Where is my child? I will go crazy here!” she shouted, pleading with police to “please have mercy on me.”
The woman wore a rubber bracelet bearing Duterte’s name. She relaxed when a social worker brought her son to the same vehicle.
The crackdown is dubbed “Oplan Rody.” Oplan is short for operation plan, while Rody is both an acronym for “Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youth” and the nickname of Duterte, who becomes president June 30.
Disney attack brings back childhood horror for paramedic
Jason Kershanick was just 9 when he saw a huge alligator leap out of a lake and kill his 4-year-old playmate in their Florida neighborhood.
Now a 37-year-old paramedic firefighter, he remembers the gruesome attack “like it was yesterday.” It hits him hard every time a gator kills someone else.
After an alligator snatched a 2-year-old boy at a Walt Disney World resort this week, Kershanick’s wife asked if he wanted to talk. “I really don’t want to relive it,” he told her.
He was just steps away when a bull gator more than 10 feet long surged toward Erin Lynn Glover as she splashed through ankle-deep water in Englewood, Florida. It was June 1988, and kids at the time didn’t worry much about gators, even though the town stood at the edge of the Everglades.
As a child, he described his friend’s last moments to an Associated Press reporter. Game officers killed the beast hours later, her body still in its jaws.
IAAF convenes meeting on whether to readmit Russian athletes
VIENNA (AP) — Track and field’s world governing body is meeting to decide whether to allow Russian track and field athletes to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The IAAF’s ruling council convened in Vienna on Friday to consider whether to uphold or lift the suspension of Russia’s track and field federation.
The ban was imposed in November following a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission that alleged state-sponsored doping, cover-ups and corruption.
Russian officials claim they have met the conditions for reinstatement, but a new WADA report issued Wednesday cited continuing obstruction and violations of drug-testing in Russia.
Even if the IAAF decides to maintain the ban on the Russian federation, it could also consider a compromise that would allow individual athletes with a proven clean doping record to compete in the games.