AP News in Brief at 12:09 a.m. EDT

May 1, 2019 Off By The Wall of Law

2 dead, 4 injured in North Carolina campus shooting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A man armed with a pistol opened fire on students at a North Carolina university during the last day of classes Tuesday, killing two people and wounding four, police said. Officers who had gathered ahead of a campus concert raced over and disarmed the suspect.

The shooting prompted a lockdown at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and caused widespread panic across campus as students scrambled to take shelter.

“Just loud bangs. A couple loud bangs and then we just saw everyone run out of the building, like nervous, like a scared run like they were looking behind,” said Antonio Rodriguez, 24, who was visiting campus for his friend’s art show.

Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said authorities received a call in the late afternoon that a suspect armed with a pistol had shot several students. He said officers assembling nearby for a concert rushed to the classroom building and arrested the gunman in the room where the shooting took place.

“Our officers’ actions definitely saved lives,” Baker said at a news conference.

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Venezuela awaits more protests after a day of turmoil

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — He called it the moment for Venezuelans to reclaim their democracy once and for all. But as the hours dragged on, opposition leader Juan Guaidó stood alone on a highway overpass with the same small cadre of soldiers with whom he launched a bold effort to spark a military uprising and settle Venezuela’s agonizing power struggle.

Like past attempts to oust President Nicolas Maduro, the opposition seemed outmanoeuvred again Tuesday. What Guaidó dubbed “Operation Freedom” triggered a familiar pattern of security forces using repressive tactics to crush small pockets of stone-throwing youths while millions of Venezuelans watched the drama unfold with a mix of fear and exasperation.

The opposition’s hoped-for split in the military didn’t emerge, a plane that the United States claimed was standing by to ferry Maduro into exile never took off and by nightfall one of the government’s bravest opponents, who defied house arrest to join the insurrection, had quietly sought refuge with his family in a foreign embassy.

Guaidó, the telegenic 35-year-old leader of the opposition-dominated congress who is recognized by the U.S. and over 50 nations as Venezuela’s rightful president, nonetheless pressed forward in calling for a new round of mass street protests Wednesday. Opposition forces are hoping that Venezuelans angered by broadcast images of armoured vehicles plowing into protesters and fed up with their nation’s dire humanitarian crisis will fill streets across the nation.

In one blow to Maduro, the head of Venezuela’s feared intelligence agency announced that he was breaking ranks with the embattled socialist leader.

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US military cuts back on Afghan war data

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war, calling it of little value in fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years, often at the insistence of the Afghan government, which had previously stopped the U.S. military from disclosing the number of Afghans killed in battle as well as overall attrition within the Afghan army.

The latest clampdown also aligns with President Donald Trump’s complaint that the U.S. gives away too much war information, although there is no evidence that this had any influence on the latest decision.

A government watchdog agency that monitors the U.S. war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. military command in Kabul is no longer producing “district control data,” which shows the number of Afghan districts — and the percentage of their population — controlled by the government compared to the Taliban.

The last time the command released this information, in January, it showed that Afghan government control was stagnant or slipping. It said the share of the population under Afghan government control or influence — a figure that was largely unchanged from May 2017 to July 2018 at about 65 per cent — had dropped in October 2018 to 63.5 per cent. The government’s control or influence of districts fell nearly 2 percentage points, to 53.8 per cent.

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Mueller frustrated with Barr over portrayal of findings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller expressed frustration to Attorney General William Barr last month about how the findings of his Russia investigation were being portrayed, saying he worried that a letter summarizing the main conclusions of the probe lacked the necessary context and was creating public confusion about his team’s work, a Justice Department official said Tuesday night.

Mueller communicated his agitation in a letter to the Justice Department just days after Barr issued a four-page document that summarized the special counsel’s conclusions about whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had conspired with Russia and whether the president had tried to illegally obstruct the probe. Mueller and Barr then had a phone call where the same concerns were addressed. The official was not authorized to discuss Mueller’s letter by name.

The letter lays bare simmering tensions between the Justice Department and the special counsel about whether Barr’s summary adequately conveyed the gravity of Mueller’s findings, particularly on the key question of obstruction. The revelation is likely to sharpen attacks by Democrats who accuse Barr of unduly protecting the president and of spinning Mueller’s conclusions in Trump’s favour. And it will almost certainly be a focus of Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which the attorney general will defend his handling of Mueller’s report.

“After the Attorney General received Special Counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

“In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis,” she added.

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Physicians seeking Walter Jones seat advance to GOP runoff

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two physicians advanced Tuesday to a Republican runoff in the special election to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. The last candidate standing from the 17-member GOP field ultimately will take on a former North Carolina mayor who won the Democratic primary.

State Rep. Greg Murphy of Greenville and Joan Perry of Kinston were the top two vote-getters in the very crowded Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District seat that Jones held for 24 years before his death in February at age 76 .

Murphy, a urologic surgeon who joined the legislature in 2015, finished first but failed to climb above the 30% of the vote required to avoid a July 9 runoff. The second-place Perry, a pediatrician and former member of the state university system’s governing board, will formally request a runoff as the law requires she do, campaign manager Blake Belch said Tuesday night.

The runoff winner will take on ex-Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, who won a six-candidate primary by receiving 50% of the votes cast. Richard “Otter” Bew, a retired Marine colonel who had served as a legislative aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, finished second.

The general election, now set for Sept. 10, also will feature Libertarian and Constitution party nominees. That election winner will succeed Jones, who was considered a conservative maverick by some and a GOP backslider by others.

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Minneapolis officer convicted of murder in 911 caller death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police officer was convicted of third-degree murder Tuesday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman who approached his squad car minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape, a rare guilty verdict for an officer asserting he faced a life-or-death situation.

Mohamed Noor was also found guilty of manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond , a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia whose death bewildered and angered people in both countries.

Noor, a two-year veteran who testified that he shifted to policing from a career in business because he “always wanted to serve,” was acquitted of the most serious charge of intentional second-degree murder.

Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for up to 15 years on the murder conviction and nearly five years on the manslaughter conviction, although judges aren’t bound by the guidelines and can impose much lower sentences.

Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately despite his attorney’s request that he be free on bond. He’ll be sentenced June 7. He showed no visible emotion and did not look back at his family, but his wife was crying.

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Japan’s Naruhito in 1st speech vows to stay close to people

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito inherited Imperial regalia and seals as proof of his succession and pledged in his first public address Wednesday to follow his father’s example in devoting himself to peace and staying close to the people.

Naruhito succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight after Akihito abdicated.

In his address to the people, Naruhito formally announced his succession and pledged to continue learning.

“When I think about the important responsibility I have assumed, I am filled with a sense of solemnity,” he said. Naruhito noted that his father was devoted to praying for peace and sharing joys and sorrows of the people, while showing compassion.

He said he will “reflect deeply” on the path trodden by Akihito and past emperors, and promised to abide by the Constitution to fulfil his responsibility as a national symbol while “always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them.

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Dems say Trump agrees to $2 trillion infrastructure tab

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to work together on a $2 trillion infrastructure package — but put off for later the difficult question of how to pay for it.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was “good will in the meeting” — a marked departure from the last meeting between Trump, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which ended with Trump walking out in a huff. Schumer said the two sides agreed that infrastructure investments create jobs and make the United States more competitive economically with the rest of the world.

Most importantly, Schumer said, “we agreed on a number.”

“Originally, we had started a little lower. Even the president was eager to push it up to $2 trillion, and that is a very good thing,” Schumer said.

Added Pelosi: “We did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold.”

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Synagogue shooter struggled with gun, fled with 50 bullets

SAN DIEGO (AP) — After a 19-year-old gunman fired at least eight rounds into a California synagogue, he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In his first court appearance, John T. Earnest pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder in the shooting that killed a worshipper and injured three others at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday. He also pleaded not guilty to burning a mosque last month in nearby Escondido.

Earnest fired eight to 10 shots inside the synagogue near San Diego on Saturday, hitting Lori Kaye, 60, twice as she prayed in the foyer, prosecutors say. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein lost an index finger.

Then Earnest turned toward a room of children and some adults, where Almog Peretz tried to protect his niece and other kids, prosecutors said. He and his niece Noya Dahan, 8, suffered shrapnel wounds.

It was unclear if the weapon jammed or malfunctioned or if the gunman didn’t know how to reload.

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US searches of phones, laptops at airports rising, suit says

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. government searches of travellers’ cellphones and laptops at airports and border crossings nearly quadrupled since 2015 and were being done for reasons beyond customs and immigration enforcement, according to papers filed Tuesday in a federal lawsuit that claims scouring the electronic devices without a warrant is unconstitutional.

The government has vigorously defended the searches, which rose to 33,295 in fiscal 2018, as a critical tool to protect America. But the newly filed documents claim the scope of the warrantless searches has expanded to assist in enforcement of tax, bankruptcy, environmental and consumer protection laws, gather intelligence and advance criminal investigations.

Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement consider requests from other government agencies in determining whether to search travellers’ electronic devices, the court papers said. They added that agents are searching the electronic devices of not only targeted individuals but their associates, friends and relatives.

The new information about the searches was included in a motion the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

“The evidence we have presented the court shows that the scope of ICE and CBP border searches is unconstitutionally broad,” said Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney for the EFF, based in San Francisco.

The Associated Press

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