Former student opens fire at Florida high school, killing 17
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — A former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a Florida high school Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms shortly before the day ended at one of the state’s largest schools, officials said.
Authorities offered no immediate details on the 19-year-old suspect or any possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has about 3,000 students.
Students who knew the shooter, identified as Nikolas Cruz, described a volatile teenager whose strange behaviour had caused others to end friendships with him, particularly after the fight that led to his expulsion.
Frantic parents rushed to the school to find SWAT team members and ambulances surrounding the huge campus. Live television footage showed emergency workers who appeared to be treating the wounded on sidewalks.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. ‘MOM, I’M SO SCARED’
Brittani Feingold texted her mother as she escaped when an ex-student opened fire in a Florida high school, killing 17 people.
2. WHO SAYS SHE’S FREE TO DISCUSS TRYST WITH TRUMP
Porn star Stormy Daniels says Trump’s attorney broke a non-disclosure agreement, so she can talk about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with the man who would become president.
School shooting suspect made ‘disturbing’ social media posts
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons.”
“I don’t know the specifics,” the sheriff said.
However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.
School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.
Trump at last denounces abuse; Kelly’s future in doubt
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump at last broke his silence Wednesday to explicitly denounce domestic violence in the wake of allegations that a top White House aide had abused two former wives. Chief of staff John Kelly, under fire for mishandling the matter, stayed largely out of sight, his future in doubt and the White House in tumult.
The chaos surrounding the departure of aide Rob Porter put a harsh spotlight on Kelly, the retired general who was brought on last summer to instil military-like discipline in the free-wheeling West Wing. Questions persisted about what and when Kelly knew about the abuse allegations against Porter, who resigned as staff secretary last week after the accusations became public.
West Wing aides have had their faith in the chief of staff shaken, and morale has plunged to levels not seen since last spring’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the August uproar over Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This White House scandal erupted initially without the president’s involvement. But Trump fed the fury last week when he defended Porter and questioned the #MeToo movement that sprang up in recent months to protest the mistreatment of many women.
In Trump’s first comments after Porter resigned, he praised his former aide. Next, he appeared to cast doubt on the ex-wives’ allegations by tweeting: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” Finally, on Wednesday, Trump said the words that Democrats and Republicans alike had been listening for:
Porn star who alleged Trump affair: I can now tell my story
NEW YORK (AP) — Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom Donald Trump’s attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss an alleged sexual encounter with the man who is now president, her manager told The Associated Press Wednesday.
At the same time, developments in the bizarre case are fueling questions about whether such a payment could violate federal campaign finance laws.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, believes that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published Tuesday: one in which Cohen told The New York Times he made the six-figure payment with his personal funds, and another in the Daily Beast, which reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story, said the manager, Gina Rodriguez.
“Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” Rodriguez said.
At issue is what, exactly, happened inside a Lake Tahoe, Nevada, hotel room in 2006 between Trump, then a reality TV star, and Clifford, who was promoting a porn production company during a celebrity golf tournament.
South African President Zuma succumbs to pressure, resigns
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, ending a turbulent tenure marred by corruption scandals that sapped the popularity of the ruling African National Congress and hurt one of Africa’s biggest economies.
The resignation signalled an imminent end to a leadership crisis in South Africa and set the stage for Zuma to be replaced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a robust campaign against corruption but will quickly face pressure to produce results in a country struggling with unemployment, economic inequity and other problems. Ahead of 2019 elections, Ramaphosa also has the tough task of rebuilding a ruling party whose moral stature has diminished since it took power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” said Zuma, who added that he took the decision even though he disagreed with the ruling party’s demand that he quit immediately or face a motion of no confidence in the parliament on Thursday. Zuma, 75, had said he was willing to resign early from his second five-year term but wanted to stay in office for several more months.
“Of course, I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution,” Zuma said.
The African National Congress welcomed the resignation, expressing gratitude for Zuma’s “loyal service” during his nearly 10 years as president and encouraging party members to support Ramaphosa, now the country’s acting president. By the end of the week, Ramaphosa is likely to be elected president by the ANC-dominated parliament and to give a state of the nation address that had been postponed during the political turmoil.
Report details harm to Cuba diplomats but offers no cause
WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors are releasing the first detailed medical reports about the hearing, vision, balance and brain symptoms suffered in what the State Department has called “health attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Still missing: A clear diagnosis of just what happened to trigger their mysterious health problems.
All together, the symptoms are similar to the brain dysfunction seen with concussions, concluded a team of specialists from the University of Pennsylvania who tested 21 of the 24 embassy personnel thought to be affected.
Whatever the cause, the Havana patients “experienced persisting disability of a significant nature,” the Penn team concluded.
Cuba has insisted there were no attacks.
The Journal of the American Medical Association released the report late Wednesday, although key findings were first disclosed by The Associated Press in December.
Group of senators reaches immigration deal on Dreamers, wall
WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of senators reached a bipartisan agreement Wednesday aimed at balancing Democrats’ fight to offer citizenship to young “Dreamer” immigrants with President Donald Trump’s demands for billions to build his coveted border wall with Mexico.
Though the compromise was announced by 16 senators with centrist views on the issue and was winning support from many Democrats, it faced an uncertain fate. Leaders were trying to schedule votes on that plan and three other immigration proposals for Thursday, which they hoped would bring the chamber’s showdown over the hot-button issue to a close.
While not specifically mentioning the bipartisan pact, Trump urged lawmakers to oppose any plan that doesn’t meet his more stringent demands, which include curbs on legal immigration and the abolition of a visa lottery. The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, warned that lawmakers need to address Trump’s entire proposal, saying, “We need to take the president seriously.”
There were also qualms among Democrats. The party’s No. 2 Senate leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois, said some Democrats had “serious issues” with parts of the plan. Those concerns focused on its spending for Trump’s wall and its bar against Dreamers sponsoring their parents for legal residency.
“We’re not there yet,” Durbin said of the 60 votes the proposal would need for approval.
9 medals up for grabs; Shiffrin set for Pyeongchang debut
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Assuming the weather co-operates, there are nine medals up for grabs at the Olympics, including the women’s giant slalom, where Mikaela Shiffrin is set to make her Pyeongchang debut.
Only one of four scheduled Alpine races has been run so far because of strong winds at both hills being used for the Winter Games. Both the women’s giant slalom and the men’s downhill are to be held Thursday.
It’s also the finale of the pairs figure-skating competition, where Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China have a slim lead over Russian skaters Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov heading into the free skate. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are in third, but several teams are still within reach of the podium.
For more AP Olympic coverage: https://www.wintergames.ap.org
EPA chief says he flies first class due to security concerns
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has broken months of silence about his frequent premium-class flights at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travellers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke about his flight costs on Tuesday in a pair of interviews in New Hampshire, following a first-class flight to meet with the state’s Republican governor and tour a toxic waste site.
Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader he had some “incidents” on flights shortly after his appointment by President Donald Trump last year.
“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” said Pruitt, who confirmed to the newspaper that he had flown first class from Washington to Boston before continuing on to New Hampshire. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”
Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail that accompanies him at all times, even at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices.