Fallen bridge: As victims are found officials seek answers
MIAMI (AP) — As Florida authorities work to identify the people who died in Thursday’s catastrophic bridge collapse, state and federal investigators will begin the task of figuring out how and why the five-day-old span failed.
Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey said Thursday night that his crew is using high-tech listening devices, trained sniffing dogs and search cameras in a race to find anyone still alive in the rubble. The $14.2 million pedestrian bridge was supposed to open in 2019 as a safe way for students to cross the busy road. It linked the community of Sweetwater with the campus of Florida International University.
“We have to remove some of this piece by piece. It’s very unstable.” Aerial footage at the site showed a trained dog running atop fallen concrete and sniffing in the crevices for any victims,” he said.
But Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez acknowledged the likelihood of finding more victims under the rubble is slim.
“We know that there’s going to be a negative outcome at the end of the day,” Perez said.
Trump owns up to making things up
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has owned up to making things up.
For a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump was by his own admission unprepared — deficient in the fundamentals of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship that he’d been railing about since the campaign.
He insisted to Trudeau that the U.S. was running a trade deficit with Canada, a statement contradicted by U.S. government statistics. He was winging it, he confided to donors at a private Missouri political fundraiser Wednesday night.
“I didn’t even know,” he said. “I had no idea.”
Others might be mortified at being caught short. Not this president.
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. US SAYS RUSSIA HACKED ENERGY GRID
The Trump administration accuses Moscow of a concerted hacking operation targeting the U.S. energy grid, aviation systems and other infrastructure.
2. BRIDGE COLLAPSES ONTO TRAFFIC
A pedestrian bridge being built across an eight-lane highway at a Miami-area college fails, crushing eight vehicles under massive slabs and killing “multiple” people.
Congress demands Pentagon, DOJ investigate child sex assault
Congress reacted Thursday to an Associated Press investigation into sexual assault among children on U.S. military bases by demanding the Defence and Justice departments explain how they will solve the problem.
The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, said it had begun its own examination of the issue. And a top Democrat on the committee said she would call a hearing within six months.
Four senators, including the veteran head of the Senate Armed Services Committee and two others who’ve made sexual assault a keynote issue, sent letters to the Pentagon and Justice Department with questions about sex assault among the military’s children.
AP’s investigation revealed that reports of sexual violence among kids on U.S. military bases at home and abroad often die on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confesses. Other cases are shelved by criminal investigators despite requirements they be pursued. Many cases get lost in a dead zone of justice, AP found, with neither victim nor offender receiving help.
“The report reveals an inscrutable system that fails these children at every level,” wrote Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat.
Trump wildlife protection board stuffed with trophy hunters
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family.
A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.
One appointee co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with Trump’s adult sons. The oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drew the ire of animal rights activists after a 2011 photo emerged of him holding a bloody knife and the severed tail of an elephant he killed in Zimbabwe.
The first meeting of the International Wildlife Conservation Council was scheduled for Friday at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington. Council members aren’t being paid a salary, though the department has budgeted $250,000 in taxpayer funds for travel expenses, staff time and other costs.
Trump has decried big-game hunting as a “horror show” in tweets. But under Zinke, a former Montana congressman who is an avid hunter, the Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly moved to reverse Obama-era restrictions on bringing trophies from African lions and elephants into the United States.
Thousands flee violence in mass exodus from Syrian towns
BEIRUT (AP) — Tens of thousands of terrified men, women and children streamed out on foot and in pick-up trucks Thursday from besieged enclaves on two fronts, fleeing bombings from the Syrian military near the capital, Damascus, and Turkish troops in the country’s north.
It was the largest single-day exodus of civilians from fighting in Syria’s civil war and a reminder of how the conflict that sparked the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe continues to hit new lows as it enters its eighth year.
The flight of an estimated 42,000 civilians came as their attackers— Syrian government troops, backed by Russian aircraft, and Turkish forces — pushed their way into civilian centres, in strategic military advances that could turn the page on some of the most volatile flashpoints of the conflict.
Near the capital, Damascus, the Syrian government is chipping away at one of the largest and most significant opposition bastions since the early days of the rebellion — communities where some 400,000 people are estimated to be holed up.
Since mid-February, Syrian troops have targeted the capital’s sprawling eastern Ghouta region with shells, airstrikes and, at times, even toxic gas, according to opposition medics. They are now in control of the majority of the enclave that had been in rebel hands since 2012.
Georgia executes man known as the ‘stocking strangler’
JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Georgia put to death Thursday evening the man known as the “stocking strangler,” who was convicted of raping and killing older women in attacks that terrorized a small city decades ago.
Carlton Gary, 67, was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. Thursday after an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson, authorities said. He was the first inmate executed by Georgia this year.
Gary was strapped on a gurney with his eyes closed when the warden asked him if he wished to make a final statement or have a prayer recited shortly before the death procedure was to be carried out. The inmate did not respond to the warden’s question, keeping his eyes closed shortly before he was put to death.
Gary was convicted in 1986 on three counts each of malice murder, rape and burglary for the 1977 deaths of 89-year-old Florence Scheible, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond and 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff. Though charged only in those deaths, prosecutors say Gary attacked nine elderly women in the west Georgia city of Columbus from September 1977 to April 1978. Most were choked with stockings, and seven of them died.
Police arrested Gary six years after the last killing, in May 1984. He became a suspect when a gun stolen during a 1977 burglary in the upscale neighbourhood where all but one of the victims lived was traced to him.
US gets tougher on Russia; new sanctions, accusations
WASHINGTON (AP) — In its toughest challenge to Russia to date, the Trump administration accused Moscow on Thursday of an elaborate plot to penetrate America’s electric grid, factories, water supply and even air travel through cyber hacking. The U.S. also hit targeted Russians with sanctions for alleged election meddling for the first time since President Donald Trump took office.
The list of Russians being punished includes all 13 indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, a tacit acknowledgement by the administration that at least some of Mueller’s Russia-related probe has merit.
Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, but the sanctions appeared to rely on the special counsel’s legal conclusions in deciding who should be named. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.
The named Russians — 19 in all — are unlikely to have any assets in the United States that would be covered, making the move largely symbolic. But it could help inoculate the president from persistent claims he’s afraid or unwilling to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin or to fight back against efforts to undermine America’s democracy and domestic affairs.
“We’re going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behaviour,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. At the same time, she left open the possibility of better U.S.-Russia co-operation, arguing that “if we can work together to combat world threats on things like North Korea, then we should.”
Democrats’ midterm choices: Liberals, moderates, both?
ATLANTA (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the new miracle men of the Democratic Party, offer a clear model for how to run in Republican territory: Focus on economics, not guns, immigration or President Donald Trump.
But that won’t be easy when much of the party is whipped into a fervour over those topcs.
As the party barrels into primary season, its biggest success stories star Democratic moderates who’ve run strong in Trump country. But much of the energy in the party is on the left, where an active base is calling for everything from single-payer health care and a $15-an-hour minimum wage to bans on certain weapons and ammunition. Finding the balance between the base’s demands and winning general elections is Democrats’ new dilemma as they look to toward to the November midterms.
The challenge will greet Democratic candidates across 75 targeted GOP-held districts that Trump won in 2016, as well as the 10 Democratic senators facing re-election challenges in states Trump won.
To be sure, most of those districts are friendlier to Democrats than Jones’ Alabama, which Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points, and Lamb’s southwest Pennsylvania House district, where Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points and Lamb maintains a lead of fewer than 700 votes. That race has not been called.
Donald Trump Jr., wife headed for divorce after 12 years
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump Jr.’s wife took legal steps on Thursday to formally end their 12-year marriage, and the couple issued a statement saying they’re going their separate ways but “will always have tremendous respect for each other and our families.”
Vanessa Trump, a former model, listed the breakup as “uncontested” in a state Supreme Court divorce complaint filing that is secret except for the title of the case.
The Trumps, each 40 years old, were married in 2005 and have five children. Their first child, a girl born in 2007, made a grandfather of Donald Trump a decade before he became president.
In a statement issued through The Trump Organization, where Donald Trump Jr. is an executive, the couple said in part: “After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways. … We have five beautiful children together and they remain our top priority.”
The divorce filing comes as Trump Jr. has emerged as a central figure in at least one focus point of the special counsel’s investigation into Trump ties to Russia: a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower involving a Russian lawyer and top campaign aides that, according to Trump Jr.’s emails, he accepted after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival.