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Woman strikes Capitol Police cruiser, taken into custody

Woman strikes Capitol Police cruiser, taken into custody

A woman described as 'erratic and aggressive' drove a vehicle into a U.S. Capitol Police cruiser near the Capitol on Wednesday morning and was taken into custody, police said. Shots were fired during the arrest attempt, but the incident appeared to be criminal in nature with 'no nexus to terrorism,' said Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki. No one was injured. She said the U.S. Capitol remained open. Malecki described the woman as an 'erratic and aggressive driver.' As police attempted to stop her, she made a U-turn and fled, nearly striking officers and striking at least one other vehicle, Malecki said. A brief pursuit followed before the woman was stopped. The incident occurred near the U.S. Botanic Garden. Malecki said shots were fired 'during the attempt to arrest the suspect,' but she declined to say how many shots were fired or to elaborate further. 'We're not going to get into that right now,' she said. The incident occurred near the end of the morning rush hour and prompted a large police response just as lines of people were waiting to get into a nearby congressional office building. Streets near the Capitol were closed, and the Sergeant at Arms advised lawmakers and staff to stay away from the area. Scott Ferson, president of Liberty Square Group, a Boston-based communications firm, said he suddenly saw a dozen Capitol Police cars moving quickly toward the Botanic Garden. Ferson said he heard what sounded like three gunshots. 'I heard pop, pop, pause, pop and I said 'Oh, that was gunfire,'' he said by phone. Police called to everyone in the area to get off the street, but then things seemed to calm down and he headed to his meeting. Almost exactly one year ago, U.S. Capitol Police shot a man after he pulled a weapon at a U.S. Capitol checkpoint as spring tourists thronged Washington. The suspect was previously known to police, who last October had arrested him for disrupting House of Representatives proceedings and yelling he was a 'Prophet of God.' And in 2013, Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Connecticut, was shot and killed by Capitol Police officers in her vehicle outside the Hart Senate Office Building. Officers had pursued Carey from the White House, where she made a U-turn at a security checkpoint. Her young daughter was inside the car at the time and was unharmed. Her family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Secret Service and Capitol Police. ___ Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols, Kevin Freking and Sarah Brumfield contributed to this report.

Kushner, taking new White House role, faces rare scrutiny

Kushner, taking new White House role, faces rare scrutiny

Jared Kushner has been a power player able to avoid much of the harsh scrutiny that comes with working in the White House. But this week he's found that even the president's son-in-law takes his turn in the spotlight. In a matter of days, Kushner, a senior Trump adviser, drew headlines for leaving Washington for a ski vacation while a signature campaign promise fell apart. The White House then confirmed he had volunteered to be interviewed before the Senate intelligence committee about meetings with Russian officials. At the same time, the White House announced he'll helm a new task force that some in the West Wing have suggested carries little real influence. Kushner became the fourth Trump associate to get entangled in the Russia probe. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the intelligence committee, said Tuesday that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a 'private interview' about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials. The news came as the White House announced Kushner would lead a new White House Office of American Innovation, a task force billed as a powerful assignment for Kushner. But the task force's true power in the White House remained unclear, according to a half-dozen West Wing officials and Kushner associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official White House line is that the group would have sweeping authority to modernize government, acting as strategic consultants who can draw from experiences in the private sector — and sometimes receive input from the president himself — to fulfill campaign promises like battling opioid addiction and transforming health care for veterans. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that it would 'apply the president's ahead-of-schedule-and-under-budget mentality' to the government. But others inside and outside the White House cast doubt on the task force's significance and reach, suggesting it was a lower priority for the administration and pointing out that similar measures have been tried by previous presidents with middling success. The assignment revived lingering questions about whether Kushner had opted to focus his time on a project that would put him at some distance from some Trump's more conservative and controversial policy overhauls. The announcement came just days after Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were photographed on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado, as the GOP health care deal began to unravel amid protests from conservative Republicans that it did not go far enough in replacing President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Kushner rushed back to Washington on Friday but it was too late to save the bill, which was scuttled hours later by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Two people close to Kushner vehemently denied the president was upset at his son-in-law for being absent, saying Trump had given the trip his blessing. And a senior White House official insisted the timing of the task force announcement was planned weeks in advance. Kushner, who has been at his father-in-law's right hand since the campaign, has long been viewed as a first-among-equals among the disparate power centers competing for the president's ear. Kushner, who routinely avoids interviews, draws power from his ability to access Trump at all hours, including the White House residence often off-limits to staffers. His portfolio is robust: He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with the Middle East, Canada and Mexico. Though Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been spotted with some frequency on the Washington social circuit, the president's son-in-law is routinely in the office early and leaves late, other than on Fridays when he observes the Sabbath. While those close to Trump flatly state that Kushner, by virtue of marriage, is untouchable, this is a rare moment when he has been the center of the sort of political storm that has routinely swept up the likes of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway. It points to a White House whose power matrix is constantly in flux. Kushner has been closely allied with senior counselor Dina Powell and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive and a registered Democrat. That group has, at times, been at odds with conservatives led by Bannon, who to this point has been the driving force behind the White House's policy shop. When Kushner officially joined the administration in January as a senior adviser, it was suggested that the real estate heir would draw upon the private sector to streamline and modernize government. His task force has been meeting since shortly after the inauguration and started talking to CEOs from various sectors about ways to make changes to entrenched federal programs. 'Jared is a visionary with an endless appetite for strategic, inventive solutions that will improve quality of life for all Americans,' said Hope Hicks, Trump's longtime spokeswoman. A list supplied by the White House of some of those who have met with Kushner reads like a who's who of the American business world, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tim Cook of Apple and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. Kushner usually does more listening than talking in the meetings, largely avoiding ideological arguments while asking questions about efficiency and best practices, according to a person who has attended a gathering but is not authorized to discuss private conversations. But the Trump team is hardly the first seeking to improve how the government operates. The Reagan administration tasked the Grace Commission in 1982 with uncovering wasteful spending and practices, while the Clinton administration sought its own reinvention of government in 1993 with what was initially called the National Performance Review. Previous commissions have not produced overwhelming results in changing the stubborn bureaucracy, casting some doubt on what Kushner's team can accomplish. Philip Joyce, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, said the domestic spending cuts in Trump's budget blueprint suggest that this new committee would most likely focus more on shrinking the government than improving its performance. Even then, any change would be unlikely to deliver significant budget savings compared to reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. 'It's not the main thing we ought to be focusing on,' Joyce said. 'It's at the margins of the big issues facing the country, certainly in terms of the budget.' ___ Lemire reported from New York. Additional reporting by Catherine Lucey. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Boak at http://twitter.com/@JoshBoak

Head of Trump-Russia probe under fire, won't step down

Head of Trump-Russia probe under fire, won't step down

The chairman of the House intelligence committee is refusing to step away from its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as fresh political allegations bring new cries of protest from Democrats. Asked Tuesday if he should recuse himself, committee chairman Devin Nunes responded, 'Why would I?' Later in the day, the White House vehemently denied a report that it had sought to hobble the testimony of a former acting attorney general before Nunes canceled the hearing where she was to speak. President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, lashed out at reporters, claiming they're seeing conspiracies where none exist. 'If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection,' he suggested. The embattled House committee is conducting one of three probes into the election campaign, its aftermath and potential contacts between Trump officials and Russians. The Senate intelligence committee is doing its own investigation, and since late July the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia's meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Nunes' decision to cancel Tuesday's hearing was the latest in a series of actions that Democrats contend demonstrate that his loyalty to Trump is greater than his commitment to leading an independent investigation. The California Republican, who was a member of Trump's presidential transition team, has said he met with a secret source last week on White House grounds to review classified material that showed Trump associates' communications had been captured in 'incidental' surveillance of foreigners in November, December and January. Nunes would not name the source of the information, and his office said he did not intend to share it with other members of the committee. Nor would he disclose who invited him on the White House grounds for the meeting. He described the source as an intelligence official, not a White House official. In an interview on CNN, he suggested the president's aides were unaware of the meeting. Trump has used Nunes' revelations to defend his unproven claim that Barack Obama tapped phones at Trump Tower. Adding to the swirl of questions was the publication of a series of letters dated March 23 and March 24 involving a lawyer for former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Yates, along with former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, had agreed to testify publicly before the House intelligence committee. The canceled hearing would have been the first opportunity for the public to hear Yates' account of her role in the firing of Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The letters from lawyer David O'Neil, published by The Washington Post, appeared to be in response to a meeting O'Neil had at the Justice Department on March 23 in advance of the hearing. In them, O'Neil pushes back against what he says is Justice Department guidance on what Yates could say about conversations she had with Trump — conversations the department indicated could be covered by executive privilege. 'We believe that the Department's position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the Department's historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former senior officials,' O'Neil wrote in a March 23 letter to Justice Department official Samuel Ramer. He also wrote that Yates' testimony would cover details that others have publicly recounted. The Justice Department responded to O'Neil saying that the question of what privileged conversations Yates could discuss was ultimately up to the White House. Spicer on Tuesday said the White House never sought to stop her. 'We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple,' he said. O'Neil declined to comment Tuesday, and a Justice Department spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment. Yates was fired in January as acting attorney general after she refused to defend the Trump administration's first travel ban. She alerted the White House in January that Flynn had been misleading in his account of a December phone call with the Russian ambassador to the United States in which economic sanctions against Russia were discussed. Flynn was ousted after those discrepancies were made public. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said that White House meddling is not helping to 'remove the cloud that increasingly is getting darker over the administration.' Democratic members of Nunes' House committee said his ability to lead a bipartisan probe is compromised. 'It's irregular, to be benign about it, to have a lead investigator kibitzing with the people being investigated,' said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. House Speaker Paul Ryan reiterated his support for Nunes, and Nunes himself said all of the controversy was standard for Washington. 'It's the same thing as always around this place — a lot of politics, people get heated, but I'm not going to involve myself with that,' he said. ___ Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

The ongoing maintenance started in January and was originally planned to end mid-March.  Hampton Ray with the Florida Department of Transportation says the contractor has a 200-day contract which expires in May.  The Dames Point Bridge currently has one lane blocked in each direction during the day and multiple lanes blocked at night.  Ray says the reason drivers do not see actual construction crews while traveling over the Dames Point Bridge is because the work is being conducted on the side and below the bridge. Lane closures are necessary because cars traveling over the bridge are going highway speeds and it’s the best way to ensure the safety of the construction crews.  “It’s a temporary inconvenience for a permanent solution. This will definitely add life to the bridge,” Ray says.  FDOT says the contractors are working as quickly as possible to make the bridge stronger and safer as they work on the joints where the bridge connects.  During the night, crews are also working to install a permanent catwalk on the north and south towers which is the reason behind the multiple lanes being shut down. 
Seven feet to 8 feet of sea water is estimated to rise into St. Augustine.Right now, St. Augustine city leaders are looking at how to protect themselves, based on a study from the University of Florida that Action News Jax first told you about more than a year ago.That plan includes places such as the Castillo de San Marcos and the historic square. Study shows sea levels could rise 7-8ft over next 80 Years in st aug. what leaders are already doing to prepare at 10 pic.twitter.com/jEXUr5E3ht— Cole Heath (@ColeANjax) March 29, 2017 TRENDING: Shop at Harbor Freight? Settlement could mean money for you “There’s no question the hurricane makes you see up close and personal what sea levels will look like, that’s 7-foot storm surge,” St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said.The mayor tells Action News Jax she’s aware of the University of Florida’s study, which shows sea levels around St. Augustine could rise to those levels 80 years from now.“It’s about planning, knowing you have a risk and how you’re going to approach it,” Shaver said.Shaver said her city is part of a new group called Resiliency Florida, which will collect and share data to create a plan for the entire state to plan for possible rising sea levels. PHOTOS: Family shares photos of beloved Jacksonville music teacher who was killed That includes looking at all of the vast historical sites and eventually finding ways to protect them for neighbors and tourists to enjoy for generations to come.Resiliency Florida’s goal is to also look for vulnerable spots. In St. Augustine, Shaver said replacing a sewage plant on the Matanzas River is a concern.The plan also has the city putting in special valves in the flood-prone Davis Shores neighborhood to prevent floodwaters from flowing back into the area.Right now this plan is in its very early stages and the city will start developing their policy to address their vulnerabilities in June once they’ve been able to collect data.
Maj Toure is on a quest to make a difference. As a hip hop artist, he's traveled the country and seen a lot - so, in 2015, he started a movement called 'Black Guns Matter.' Action News Jax Erica Bennett spoke to him via Skype on Tuesday from Philadelphia, where he's based. 'Misinformation in any area, especially with something as powerful as a firearm, can lead you going to jail, and lead to you hurting someone, hurting yourself, so that's definitely a problem,' he explained.  Despite the name, Toure said his group is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. The name is a simple reference to the color of most guns. On Sunday, Toure will host a three-hour program in Jacksonville to talk gun safety, training and law. 'At the events, we're dealing with the law, making sure people have a full understanding of the laws in their state. We deal with conflict resolution, de-escalation tactics,' Toure said. Marketing for the event has been strategic. Flyers have been circulating on Instagram and social media and we're told they're specifically targeting urban areas.  Action News Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said targeting that demographic is important and may address the root of the issue. 'Jacksonville definitely has a gun-violence problem. A lot of the crimes you see being committed here are committed with guns and unfortunately, young people,' Jefferson said.  According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, in 2016, there were 113 homicides in the city, up from 104 in 2015. Toure believes his seminar will help. 'This has crime-lowering benefits, cultural-changing benefits. From the smallest thing to the largest thing, it's been amazing all across the country,' Toure said. The Black Guns Matter event is being held at Embassy Suites on Baymeadows Road from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday. The event is free, but you must register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-guns-matter-jacksonville-tickets-32785580554
Jacksonville is now officially poised to access a half-cent sales tax you approved to pay down the more than $2.8 billion pension debt, while closing out pensions and making wage and benefit changes for local unions. A slew of bills has been filed in front of the Jacksonville City Council, including legislation that approves tentative agreements with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30, Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters Local 122, Communication Workers of America, AFSCME, Jacksonville Supervisors Association, and Northeast Florida Public Employees’ Local 630 LIUNA. A bill formally levying the half-cent sales tax to pay the unfunded liability, or pension debt, has also been introduced.  A special Council “Committee of the Whole” meeting has already been scheduled for April 19 to review all of this legislation. Council approval is the final step needed in the process. WOKV has told you in recent weeks that the police and fire union membership- which make up the majority of the debt- approved the tentative agreement that resulted from collective bargaining with the City’s team. There is an increase in pay and restoration of benefits cut under a 2015 reform plan for existing members, while new hires are moved to a 401(k) style plan instead of a traditional pension. Closing the traditional pension plans was key in this ongoing process from the City’s perspective, because it was a needed move in order to tap in to the voter-approved sales tax. That tax would take effect upon the expiration of the Better Jacksonville Plan half-cent tax for capital improvement projects in 2030, and last for up to 30 years or until the defined benefit plans are fully funded. Voters approved the tax last year, after the concept was authorized at the state level. Since Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and his team first started pitching this plan, it has been with the promise that generating this future sales tax revenue would result in immediate budget relief- possibly tens of millions of dollars. The bill text spells out some of the funding mechanism, saying the sales tax revenue would be “actuarially recognized” and applied to the employer contribution as early as the upcoming fiscal year. Some financial questions still remain, and are expected to be aired out as the Council begins its review. One question is exactly how much the benefit changes in the tentative agreement will cost the City. Another is how much money will be added to the total paydown by using this financial mechanism to provide short term relief and shift the large burden in to the future.
It's about being 'scam smart'.   Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's Department of Financial Services, along with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, are hosting a series of workshops to help seniors, their families, and their caregivers avoid being ripped off.   The workshops, which are part of the Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) initiative, will teach attendees how to identify scams targeting the senior community, as well as receive tips on ways they can protect themselves.   The Director of the Division of Consumer Services in the Department of Financial Services says the workshops will cover a wide variety of potential scams.   Tasha Carter says, 'Many times the frauds and scams targeting seniors are related to telemarketing scams, sweepstakes scams, lottery scams, and even one of the bigger ones that have become more popular over the last several years, the romance scam.'   If you're interested in attending, the 'Be Scam Smart' Workshops are being held at the following locations and times:  - Wednesday, March 29, 2017  10:45 am to 12:15 pm  Wallace Small Senior Center  1083 Line Street  Jacksonville, FL 32209   -Thursday, March 30, 2017  10:00 am to 11:30 am  Frances Padgett Arlington Senior Center  1078 Rogero Road  Jacksonville, FL 32211   To register or request a workshop, you can visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/SAFE or call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.
A suspicious odor on a Duval County school bus leads the driver to pull over, ultimately leading to that driver and seven children being taken to the hospital. The Duval County School District says the bus was transporting 16 students from Grasp Academy and Fort Carolina Middle School when the odor was detected. The driver pulled over in the Hogan’s Creek area and contacted dispatch.  Jacksonville Fire and Rescue transported seven children and the driver to the hospital as a precaution, but all are said to be in good condition.  JFRD suspected carbon monoxide, but when they tested there was nothing abnormal at the scene. DCPS says they believe a general cleaning product used to wipe down bus seats may have caused the children to feel ill.
Government watchdog to review Trump travel costs to Mar-a-Lago

At the request of four Democrats in the Congress, the Government Accountability Office has agreed to formally review how much money the feds spend, and what security precautions are taken, when President Donald Trump takes a weekend away at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

The request for a GAO review came from three Democratic Senators and one House member – the GAO says it will “review security and site-related travel expenses related to the President’s stays outside the White House at Mar-a-Lago.

The lawmakers who made the request were Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. [More]

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Mistaken Release Of Hundreds Of Medical Records In NC Under Scrutiny
The Democratic senator from Missouri wants documents from the top five opioid manufacturers.