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    When asked about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in which 17 people were killed, former Miami Heat star LeBron James had one question: >> Read more trending news “How is it possible that we can have minors go buy a gun?” Nikolas Cruz, accused of the killings, is actually 19 and legally bought the AR-15 semiautomatic weapon that was used during the Feb. 14 incident. Still, James, the Cavaliers’ superstar, and other players with ties to South Florida could not make sense of the tragedy. The players were asked about the shooting during Saturday’s media day for the NBA All-Star Weekend. “We have a kid who wasn’t legally unable (sic) to buy a beer at a bar, but he can go buy an AR-15?” James said “It doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying it should be legal for him to go buy beer. But how is it possible that we can have minors go buy a gun?” Heat guard Wayne Ellington, who was fourth in Saturday’s 3-point contest, said the nation has to “come together” to makes changes so these mass shootings do not continue to occur. The shooting was the ninth deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, five of those coming in the last six years. WATCH: Florida school shooting survivor slams politicians, NRA in emotional speech “I was at a loss for words,” Ellington said. “I couldn’t understand what’s going on, why (this) is going on in the world. Do we need to change? These young people doing unexplainable things, hurting each other and hurting innocent people it’s so unfortunate and sad, it’s something I don’t know how we can change but it’s something we need to come together and figure out.” John Collins, the Atlanta Hawks rookie from Palm Beach County, was calling home to try to understand what was happening. “It was a real shock to me,” said Collins, who played in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge. “Obviously, I never expected something like that to happen. I know a couple of people that were affected by that tragedy. You got to say your prayers and sending your condolences and thoughts to the victims.” What are the worst school shootings in modern US history? James, though, was the most outspoken in calling for gun control. “We’ve seen these schools and these tragedies happen in America and there’s been no change to gun control,” James said. “I don’t have the answer to this. But we have to do something about it. We’re all sending our kids to school, right? We drop them off at 8 o’clock. At 3:15 they’re going to be ready to get picked up. Either we’re picking them or someone in our family is picking them up or they have to take a bus or there’s aftercare and they stay until 5. If they have study hall they stay until 5:30 or whatever. But we all feel like our kids are going to return, right? “To the families in Parkland, down in Broward County, it’s sad and I’m sorry and it’s just a tragedy and I hope we don’t continue to see this because it’s too many in the last 10 years with guns.” James, meanwhile, has been embroiled in a social media debate with Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, who said that athletes like James should 'keep the political commentary to yourself.” “Or as someone once said, 'Shut up and dribble,’” Ingraham said. Ingraham was referencing an interview that James and Kevin Durant taped in January with ESPN’s Cari Champion for a show called “Uninterrupted.” The two NBA stars spoke about the political climate in the United States and had harsh criticism for President Donald Trump, ESPN reported. Durant, in an interview with USA Today on Friday, said Ingraham's comments were 'racist.'  “That was definitely an ignorant comment (by Ingraham). I do play basketball, but I am a civilian and I am a citizen of the United States, so my voice is just as loud as hers, I think -- or even louder.” James, on his Instagram account, posted a photo of a neon sign that read “I am more than an athlete.” Ingraham released a statement Saturday defending her comments, ESPN reported. 'In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called 'Shut Up & Sing,' in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks and Barbra Streisand, who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics,” Ingraham wrote. “If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they're called out for insulting politicians. There was no racial intent in my remarks -- false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism.
  • Friday's election-interference indictment brought by Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel, underscores how thoroughly social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter were played by Russian propagandists. And it's not clear if the companies have taken sufficient action to prevent something similar from happening again. Thirteen Russians, including a businessman close to Vladimir Putin, were charged Friday in a plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media propaganda. The indictment said the Russians' conspiracy aimed, in part, to help Republican Donald Trump and harm the prospects of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The alleged scheme was run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to try to influence the White House race. 'I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people,' wrote one of the defendants, Irina Kaverzina, in an email to a family member obtained by investigators. Tech companies have spent months pledging to fix their platforms ahead of the upcoming midterm elections this year, and reiterated those promises Friday. Twitter said in a Friday night statement it 'committed to addressing, mitigating, and ultimately preventing any future attempts to interfere in elections and the democratic process, and to doing so in the most transparent way possible.' Facebook thanked U.S. investigators for taking 'aggressive action' and pointed out its own role in helping the investigation. Researchers, however, noted that the companies' business incentives don't necessarily align with improved security and anti-hoaxing measures that might have frustrated Russian agents. 'I've never been convinced that these sites are motivated to fix a problem like this,' said Notre Dame business professor Timothy Carone, who added that security controls make it harder for sites like Facebook to offer users new features and keep advertisers happy. 'It's a really, really, really difficult problem.' The indictment confirms earlier findings from congressional investigations that Russian agents manipulated social media to promote social division by mimicking grassroots political activity. It also underscores that the problem wasn't just 'bots' — i.e., automated social-media accounts — but human conspirators who fine-tuned propaganda and built online relationships with American activists. 'The idea wasn't necessarily to help one political party over another, but to sow as much discord as possible,' said Melissa Ryan, a Democratic social media marketing expert who now keeps track of right-wing online activity. 'This was America that was attacked.' Social-media companies weren't the only ones subverted in the influence campaign. Federal prosecutors allege that Russian criminals used PayPal as a primary conduit to transfer money for general expenses and to buy Facebook ads aimed at influencing voters. Prosecutors say the accounts were opened using fake identities to help bypass PayPal's security measures. PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs said the San Jose, California, company has been cooperating with the Justice Department and is 'intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use' of its services. In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer outlined the complexity of preventing abuse. 'Election integrity is challenging because again, you're dealing with adversaries,' Schroepfer said during a conference in Half Moon Bay, California. 'They are trying to accomplish a goal and they have smart people who are trying to figure out their way into the system to accomplish that.' For instance, infiltrators often react immediately to countermeasures. If they figure out Facebook is checking the internet addresses of computers to identify visitors from particular countries, Schroepfer said, 'they'll take over a machine with malware in the U.S. and post from there instead. People say, 'Why don't you just check the currency or the IP address?' And as soon as you do that, literally that afternoon, they will change tactics.' Schroepfer said the company is making 'good headway' on the problem, although he declined to give specifics. 'By kind of doing a lot better job of trying to figure out the authenticity of these different actors, we can certainly stop that sort of behavior,' he said. 'There's a big focus on that.' On the other hand, now that the Russians have shown how this sort of campaign is done, the door is open for others — including American special interest groups — to use the same tactics to target disaffected voters in the right places, said David Gerzof Richard, a communications professor at Emerson College. 'This is the new norm,' he said. 'It's not going away. It's not going to be magically fixed by a Silicon Valley CEO or a group of executives saying they're going to do better.' __ AP Technology Writer Ryan Nakashima in Half Moon Bay, California contributed to this report.
  • Friday's election-interference indictment brought by Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel, underscores how thoroughly social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter were played by Russian propagandists. And it's not clear if the companies have taken sufficient action to prevent something similar from happening again. Thirteen Russians, including a businessman close to Vladimir Putin, were charged Friday in a plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media propaganda. The indictment said the Russians' conspiracy aimed, in part, to help Republican Donald Trump and harm the prospects of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The alleged scheme was run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to try to influence the White House race. 'I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people,' wrote one of the defendants, Irina Kaverzina, in an email to a family member obtained by investigators. Tech companies have spent months pledging to fix their platforms ahead of the upcoming midterm elections this year, and reiterated those promises Friday. Twitter said in a Friday night statement it 'committed to addressing, mitigating, and ultimately preventing any future attempts to interfere in elections and the democratic process, and to doing so in the most transparent way possible.' Facebook thanked U.S. investigators for taking 'aggressive action' and pointed out its own role in helping the investigation. Researchers, however, noted that the companies' business incentives don't necessarily align with improved security and anti-hoaxing measures that might have frustrated Russian agents. 'I've never been convinced that these sites are motivated to fix a problem like this,' said Notre Dame business professor Timothy Carone, who added that security controls make it harder for sites like Facebook to offer users new features and keep advertisers happy. 'It's a really, really, really difficult problem.' The indictment confirms earlier findings from congressional investigations that Russian agents manipulated social media to promote social division by mimicking grassroots political activity. It also underscores that the problem wasn't just 'bots' — i.e., automated social-media accounts — but human conspirators who fine-tuned propaganda and built online relationships with American activists. 'The idea wasn't necessarily to help one political party over another, but to sow as much discord as possible,' said Melissa Ryan, a Democratic social media marketing expert who now keeps track of right-wing online activity. 'This was America that was attacked.' Social-media companies weren't the only ones subverted in the influence campaign. Federal prosecutors allege that Russian criminals used PayPal as a primary conduit to transfer money for general expenses and to buy Facebook ads aimed at influencing voters. Prosecutors say the accounts were opened using fake identities to help bypass PayPal's security measures. PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs said the San Jose, California, company has been cooperating with the Justice Department and is 'intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use' of its services. In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer outlined the complexity of preventing abuse. 'Election integrity is challenging because again, you're dealing with adversaries,' Schroepfer said during a conference in Half Moon Bay, California. 'They are trying to accomplish a goal and they have smart people who are trying to figure out their way into the system to accomplish that.' For instance, infiltrators often react immediately to countermeasures. If they figure out Facebook is checking the internet addresses of computers to identify visitors from particular countries, Schroepfer said, 'they'll take over a machine with malware in the U.S. and post from there instead. People say, 'Why don't you just check the currency or the IP address?' And as soon as you do that, literally that afternoon, they will change tactics.' Schroepfer said the company is making 'good headway' on the problem, although he declined to give specifics. 'By kind of doing a lot better job of trying to figure out the authenticity of these different actors, we can certainly stop that sort of behavior,' he said. 'There's a big focus on that.' On the other hand, now that the Russians have shown how this sort of campaign is done, the door is open for others — including American special interest groups — to use the same tactics to target disaffected voters in the right places, said David Gerzof Richard, a communications professor at Emerson College. 'This is the new norm,' he said. 'It's not going away. It's not going to be magically fixed by a Silicon Valley CEO or a group of executives saying they're going to do better.' __ AP Technology Writer Ryan Nakashima in Half Moon Bay, California contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump had a nine-month extramarital affair with the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the year beginning in 2006, showing the woman his wife's bedroom in Trump Tower and bringing her to his private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, according to the woman's eight-page, handwritten account of the relationship obtained by The New Yorker magazine. The woman, Karen McDougal, confirmed in the story published online Friday that she wrote the account but said she was constrained in what else she could say publicly about Trump because she'd signed a confidentiality agreement. The affair ended in part after McDougal started feeling guilty about it and after Trump made an offensive comment about her mother's age as well as a vulgar remark about the anatomy of black men, the magazine reported. The story said McDougal was paid $150,000 during the 2016 presidential campaign for the rights to her story of an affair with any 'then-married man' by the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which never ran it. Just before Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reported that the tabloid, whose publisher, David Pecker, is a longtime friend of Trump's, had paid for McDougal's story but wasn't printing it, a tabloid industry practice known as 'catch and kill.' Former staffers at American Media Inc., the company that publishes the Enquirer and other gossip sites, have told The Associated Press the company often bought the rights to unflattering stories about certain celebrities. The practice, described by six former employees who had participated in such deals, could give Pecker leverage over celebrities so that he could elicit future favors, such as appearing on his magazines' covers. The former staffers spoke on condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from disclosing company practices. The company has approached McDougal about extending her contract barring her from talking about Trump in recent months as the behind-the-scenes negotiations to keep porn star Stormy Daniels' allegation of a Trump affair have been made public, the magazine reported. American Media has said it didn't find McDougal's account of an affair with Trump credible and paid her to write fitness columns. In a statement to The New Yorker, the company denied that having exclusive rights to McDougal's story left it with any influence over the president, saying that contention 'while flattering, is laughable.' The White House said Trump denies having an affair with McDougal. The alleged affair occurred not long after Trump married his third wife, Melania, who had recently given birth to a son, the magazine reported. Daniels, whose real name is Stefanie Clifford, has also said she had an extramarital affair with Trump beginning in 2006. This week, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he paid Clifford $130,000 with his own money in October 2016 as part of a deal that would keep her from publicly discussing her account. The same Los Angeles lawyer who represented Clifford in that transaction also represented McDougal in her negotiations with American Media, the magazine said. McDougal told The New Yorker she regretted signing legal documents that constrained what she could say. 'Every girl who speaks is paving the way for another,' she told the magazine. ___ Horwitz reported from Parkland, Florida.
  • 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. At the same time, developments in the bizarre case fueled 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 Wednesday. 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. In the years since, Clifford has claimed that she and Trump had sex once and then carried on a subsequent yearslong platonic relationship. But she has also, through a lawyer, denied the two had an affair. Trump's lawyer, Cohen, has denied there was ever an affair. The actress first detailed her account of an alleged extramarital affair with Trump in 2011, when the celebrity website The Dirty published it but then removed the material under the threat of a lawsuit, according to the site's founder, Nik Richie. Her story then remained largely out of public view until a month before the 2016 presidential election, when the website The Smoking Gun published an account that went mostly unnoted by major news organizations. In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that a limited liability company in Delaware formed by Cohen made the six-figure payment to the actress to keep her from discussing the affair during the presidential campaign. Cohen said the payment was made with his own money, and that 'neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.' He was responding to inquiries from the Federal Election Commission, which is investigating an advocacy group's complaint that the October 2016 transaction violated campaign finance laws. The case was reminiscent of the 2012 prosecution of former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, who faced six criminal charges after a pair of his wealthy friends spent nearly $1 million to support his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during his 2008 presidential run. Jurors eventually acquitted Edwards on one charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions, but were unable to reach a verdict on the five remaining counts including conspiracy and making false statements. The case ended when prosecutors elected not to retry Edwards. As in that case, the payment by Trump's lawyer was not reported as a campaign expenditure nor an in-kind contribution, and the origin of the money is still unclear, said Paul Ryan, a vice president at Common Cause, the group that filed the complaint. But Bradley Smith, the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005, was skeptical that the payment by Cohen could pose a campaign finance issue. 'You'd have to prove that it was a coordinated expenditure, and that the reason it was done was for the benefit of the campaign,' he said. If the payment was made to protect Trump's brand or avoid personal embarrassment, he said, that would likely not be a campaign problem. At the time of the payment, which followed the release of footage from 'Access Hollywood,' in which Trump was recorded bragging about grabbing women's privates, Clifford was negotiating with multiple national news networks about telling her story. A White House spokeswoman referred all questions about the payment to Cohen. The alleged affair between the actress and Trump occurred in 2006, a year after his marriage to his third wife, Melania. A lawyer for Clifford, Keith Davidson, has previously distributed statements on her behalf denying there was any affair. But in a 2011 interview with the gossip magazine In Touch Weekly, the actress — who the magazine said passed a polygraph exam — said the two had sex on one occasion and she described subsequent in-person meetings, phone calls and discussions about a potential TV appearance. The AP has previously reported that In Touch held off on publishing her account after Cohen threatened to sue the publication. It published the interview last month. In recent weeks the actress has played coy, declining to elaborate when pressed on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' Rodriguez said her client will soon announce how and when she will tell her story publicly. The celebrity website The Blast first reported the contention that Cohen's comments freed Clifford from her nondisclosure agreement. ___ Horwitz reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker in Washington contributed to this report.
  • 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. In the years since, Clifford has claimed that she and Trump had sex once and then carried on a subsequent yearslong platonic relationship. But she has also, through a lawyer, denied the two had an affair. Trump's lawyer, Cohen, has denied there was ever an affair. The actress first detailed her account of an alleged extramarital affair with Trump in 2011, when the celebrity website The Dirty published it but then removed the material under the threat of a lawsuit, according to the site's founder, Nik Richie. Her story then remained largely out of public view until a month before the 2016 presidential election, when the website The Smoking Gun published an account that went mostly unnoted by major news organizations. In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that a limited liability company in Delaware formed by Cohen made the six-figure payment to the actress to keep her from discussing the affair during the presidential campaign. Cohen said the payment was made with his own money, and that 'neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.' He was responding to inquiries from the Federal Election Commission, which is investigating an advocacy group's complaint that the October 2016 transaction violated campaign finance laws. The case was reminiscent of the 2012 prosecution of former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, who faced six criminal charges after a pair of his wealthy friends spent nearly $1 million to support his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during his 2008 presidential run. Jurors eventually acquitted Edwards on one charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions, but were unable to reach a verdict on the five remaining counts including conspiracy and making false statements. The case ended when prosecutors elected not to retry Edwards. As in that case, the payment by Trump's lawyer was not reported as a campaign expenditure nor an in-kind contribution, and the origin of the money is still unclear, said Paul Ryan, a vice president at Common Cause, the group that filed the complaint. But Bradley Smith, the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005, was skeptical that the payment by Cohen could pose a campaign finance issue. 'You'd have to prove that it was a coordinated expenditure, and that the reason it was done was for the benefit of the campaign,' he said. If the payment was made to protect Trump's brand or avoid personal embarrassment, he said, that would likely not be a campaign problem. At the time of the payment, which followed the release of footage from 'Access Hollywood,' in which Trump was recorded bragging about grabbing women's privates, Clifford was negotiating with multiple national news networks about telling her story. A White House spokeswoman referred all questions about the payment to Cohen. The alleged affair between the actress and Trump occurred in 2006, a year after his marriage to his third wife, Melania. A lawyer for Clifford, Keith Davidson, has previously distributed statements on her behalf denying there was any affair. But in a 2011 interview with the gossip magazine In Touch Weekly, the actress — who the magazine said passed a polygraph exam — said the two had sex on one occasion and she described subsequent in-person meetings, phone calls and discussions about a potential TV appearance. The AP has previously reported that In Touch held off on publishing her account after Cohen threatened to sue the publication. It published the interview last month. In recent weeks the actress has played coy, declining to elaborate when pressed on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' Rodriguez said her client will soon announce how and when she will tell her story publicly. The celebrity website The Blast first reported the contention that Cohen's comments freed Clifford from her non-disclosure agreement. ___ Horwitz reported from Washington. AP reporter Michael Biesecker contributed from Washington.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former White House aide who quickly transitioned to the CBS reality show “Celebrity Big Brother,” dropped more bombshells on the program, this time sharing a warning about Vice President Mike Pence. The woman who became a household name on “The Apprentice” told her reality show housemates on Monday’s episode that they ought to think twice about a Pence presidency, saying Pence would be a “scary” alternative to President Donald Trump. >> Omarosa returns to 'Celebrity Big Brother' after being treated for asthma attack “Can I just say this: As bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence. So everybody that’s wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their life,” Newman told the others. “We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president, that’s all I’m saying. He’s extreme. I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things.” The conversation headed toward Pence when the group started talking about the recent government shutdowns and the possibility of a Trump impeachment. Newman also talked about the recent crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and sounded a warning alarm about coming immigration policies. “I’ve seen the roundup plan,” she said. “It’s getting more and more aggressive.” Expanding on the topic of the ICE crackdown, Newman said the Obama administration did Trump a favor with its policy on DREAMers. >> On Rare.us: VP Mike Pence was spotted at the Olympics sitting by someone very close to Kim Jong Un “Barack Obama’s administration said, ‘If you sign up and basically out yourself that you’re here illegally, we’ll protect you,'” she said. “As a result, all of these people signed up, outed their families, their children, people who were in hiding. Then Donald Trump got in and was like, ‘Yeah, that was his little executive order.'” The other house members have generally expected bombshell material out of Newman. “Every time she opens her mouth, I’m like, ‘Is she gonna drop a bomb?'” Ross Mathews said. “Is there gonna be a breaking news go across the screen?” >> Read more trending news  For his part, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath exclaimed: “It’s Omarosa time!” McGrath then went on to question the validity of anything Newman says. “Time to talk about her stint in the White House … but, you always have to remember, this is Omarosa, a world-class reality TV villain. Is it true? Is it game? Is it her story? Is it the real story?' “It’s Omarosa’s world, and I’m just livin’ in it.” In a previous episode, Manigault-Newman broke down while talking to Mathews. She said Americans should be concerned about the Trump administration. “It’s going to not be OK; it’s not,” she said. “It’s so bad.”
  • When Barack Obama speaks, people listen. At least they did when he was in the White House. But that kind of authority didn't hold much sway when it came time for his presidential portrait. At a ceremony Monday to unveil portraits of him and former first lady Michelle Obama, the former president said artist Kehinde Wiley cheerfully ignored almost all of his suggestions. 'He listened very thoughtfully to what I had to say before doing exactly what he always intended to do,' he said. 'I tried to negotiate less gray hair, but Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow it. I tried to negotiate smaller ears and struck out on that as well.' The final product depicts Obama sitting in a straight-backed chair, leaning forward and looking serious while surrounded by greenery and flowers. Michelle Obama's portrait, painted by Amy Sherald, shows her in a black and white dress looking thoughtful with her hand on her chin. Both artists were personally chosen by the Obamas. The portraits will now hang in the National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian group of museums. The gallery has a complete collection of presidential portraits. A different set of portraits of the former first couple will eventually hang in the White House. 'I am humbled, I am honored, I am proud,' Michelle Obama said. 'Young people, particularly girls and girls of color, in future years they will come to this place and see someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this incredible institution.' Barack Obama spoke of his choice of Wiley, saying the two men shared multiple parallels in their upbringing; both had African fathers who were largely absent from their lives and American mothers who raised them. The former president drew multiple laughs from the audience for his remarks, starting out by praising Sherald for capturing, 'the grace and beauty and charm and hotness of the woman that I love.' Obama said he found the process of sitting for the portrait to be a frustrating experience. 'I don't like posing. I get impatient and start looking at my watch,' he said, 'but working with Kehinde was a great joy.' Wiley said the depiction of Obama surrounded by greenery and flowers was meant to 'chart his path on earth' through the choice of flowers. The painting includes chrysanthemums, which are the official flower of Chicago; jasmine to evoke Hawaii, where Obama largely grew up; and African blue lilies to honor Obama's Kenyan father. 'Being the first African-American painter to paint the first African-American president, it doesn't get any better than that,' he said. The portraits drew wildly divergent reactions on Twitter and elsewhere, with the hashtag #obamaportraits trending throughout the day. Obama opponents took the opportunity to take shots at the former president and digitally edit Make America Great Again hats onto the portrait. Others dug into Wiley's previous body of work and found a pair of racially charged paintings that showed black women holding the severed heads of white women. Among Obama supporters online, there was a bit of grumbling that Michelle Obama's portrait didn't resemble her enough, but the overall tone was of how much people missed having the Obamas in the White House.
  • Reeling from the downfall of a senior aide, the White House was on the defensive Sunday, attempting to soften President Donald Trump's comments about the mistreatment of women while rallying around the embattled chief of staff. Several senior aides fanned out on the morning talk shows to explain how the White House handled the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, a rising West Wing star who exited after two ex-wives came forward with allegations of spousal abuse. And they tried to clarify the reaction from Trump, who has yet to offer a sympathetic word to the women who said they had been abused. 'The president believes, as he said the other day, you have to consider all sides,' said senior counselor Kellyanne Conway. 'He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him as well. At the same time, you have to look at the results. The result is that Rob Porter is no longer the staff secretary.' On Saturday, Trump tweeted that 'lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false.' And the day before, he pointed to Porter's assertions of innocence and wished him a great future. Conway also delivered what she said was a vote of confidence from Trump for chief of staff John Kelly, who has come under fire for his handling of the Porter matter. Kelly initially defended his right-hand man before later offering a version of the week's events that puzzled aides and did not line up with the White House's earlier timeline. Budget director Mick Mulvaney, among those mentioned as a possible Kelly successor if Trump were to make a change, also downplayed the speculation about Kelly's standing, suggesting those stories 'are mostly being fed by people who are unhappy that they have lost access to the president.' He said talk of Kelly's departure is 'much ado about nothing.' But Trump has grown frustrated with Kelly, once commended for bringing discipline to the West Wing but who recently has been at the center of his own controversies. Trump has begun floating possible names for a future chief of staff in conversations with outside advisers, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations but not authorized to discuss them. In addition to Mulvaney, the others are House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Mark Meadows and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Mulvaney said no one has talked to him about replacing Kelly and 'I don't want that job.' There was no sign that a move was imminent, according to the people with knowledge of the conversations. Trump is known to frequently poll his advisers about the performance of senior staff and is often reluctant to actually fire aides. Kelly has indicated he would step aside if he lost the faith of the president. But he has not offered to resign, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. But a number of West Wing aides were shaken by Kelly's handling of the Porter accusations. At a senior staff meeting on Friday, Kelly tried to push his own timeline concerning Porter. Some aides in that meeting privately questioned Kelly's account, thinking his version of events was self-serving, according to one official with knowledge of the meeting but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Kelly has said he found out only Tuesday night that the accusations against Porter were true, but that same evening the White House released a statement of support for Porter from Kelly. The chief of staff, who has said he only learned of irregularities with Porter's background check in November, insisted that the decision for the staff secretary was made before photos of one of his ex-wives with a black eye were published. Mulvaney, however, said Porter was 'not entirely forthcoming' when asked about the allegations and, once the photos came out, 'we dismissed that person immediately.' The week also cast a harsh spotlight on Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, who was dating the staff secretary. She helped craft the White House's initial supportive response and has clashed with Kelly. But several aides, including Conway, delivered ringing support for Hicks and said that the president still valued her. As the aftershocks of the accusations against Porter reverberated for a sixth day, Trump stayed out of sight on a rainy Sunday in Washington. Showing little regard for the #MeToo movement, he has followed a pattern of giving the benefit of the doubt to powerful men and insisting upon his own innocence in the face of allegations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women. 'I think the president's shaped by a lot of false accusations against him in the past,' said legislative director Marc Short, who added that Trump was 'very disappointed' by the charges against Porter. 'And I think that he believes that the resignation was appropriate.' Conway spoke on ABC's 'This Week' and CNN's State of the Union,' Mulvaney on 'Fox News Sunday' and CBS's 'Face the Nation,' and Short on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
  • Reality TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former aide to President Donald Trump, returned to the set of 'Celebrity Big Brother' on Saturday after she suffered an asthma attack Friday night, CBS News reported. >> Omarosa says she wouldn’t vote for Trump again ‘in a million years’ The network said Newman temporarily left the house and 'received medical treatment' for the attack, which 'will be addressed during Sunday's episode.' The show airs at 8 p.m. on CBS. >> CNN's Don Lemon cracks up when guest bashes Omarosa 'The show has procedures in place to deal with this type of short-term medical treatment,' CBS News reported. 'Producers also made sure there was supervision to ensure there was no access to information that would provide an unfair advantage when returning to the competition.' >> Read more trending news  Rumors began circulating about Newman's health Friday after a livestream captured contestant Marissa Jaret Winokur telling castmate Ross Mathews that 'Omarosa had everything to lose,' adding, 'I mean, I put her in the hospital.' Read more here.

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  • Update: The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says the reported missing man, Steven Haramia, has been found safe. Deputies say he is home and with his family.  Original Story: The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is asking for your help in trying to find Steven Christofer Haramia who deputies say left his residence early Saturday morning, possibly around 3am. Deputies say Haramia has several medical conditions which require continued medication. The sheriff’s office says Haramia was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and a camouflage jacket, with black Nike shoes. Deputies describe him as 5’9, 155 lbs, with black hair and brown eyes.  The sheriff’s office said they were searching for Haramia Sunday with their helicopter near the Heritage Park community in St. Augustine.  Deputies say if you know where Haramia is you can call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office at 904-824-8304.
  • Hours after a 7-year-old boy died from injuries in a shooting in the Durkeeville area, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry called for the community to come together and stop senseless violence.  Curry sent a series of tweets before sunrise, saying we have to break through to these young people, intimating that the suspect was young.   The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has not released a description of the suspect.  Detectives say a dark-colored SUV pulled up to a home on Mt. Herman Street after dark on Sunday night and someone inside started shooting.  7-year-old Tayshawn Gallon died from his injuries at the hospital.  A 23-year-old man who was also in the front yard of the home had non-life threatening injuries.   This is the fourth child-involved shooting in the past two weeks, according to JSO.  
  • A commercial aircraft carrying 65 people crashed in Iran on Sunday, killing everyone on board, an airline spokesman told state media.  >> Read more trending news 
  • A 30-year-old man died of injuries after a shooting in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood that police believe involved an Uber Eats driver. >> Watch the news report here Police say Ryan Thornton, 30, ordered food from the app to be delivered to the Concorde Condominium on Pharr Court South late Saturday. At 11:30 p.m., Thornton walked away from the delivery car with his order.  Police said words may have been exchanged, and that's when shots were fired from the delivery car. The driver took off in a white Volkswagen.  One of the people WSB-TV's Lauren Pozen spoke with lives close to where the incident happened. The person, who didn't want to be identified, said he heard five gunshots go off outside his apartment.  >> Read more trending news  Thorton died at Grady Memorial Hospital.  If you’ve never heard of Uber Eats, it’s a smartphone app that many people use to order take-out. Uber told WSB-TV that it has a 'no weapons' policy for its drivers.  As the search for the driver continues, this shooting has those who use the app a little hesitant to continue to do so.  'Something needs to be done to further the safety of Uber Eats and make us feel safe,” said the man who lives near the scene. Uber said a statement that it is shocked and saddened by the news and is working with the Atlanta Police Department. 
  • An 11-year-old Orange County, Florida, girl was found Sunday afternoon at a Georgia hotel room with a 24-year-old Illinois man who had abducted her, Georgia's Bibb County Sheriff’s Office said. Alice Amelia Johnson was reported missing at about 9 a.m. Sunday from a subdivision near University Boulevard and North Econlockhatchee Trail in Orange County, deputies said. Investigators said they tracked Alice's cellphone while she was traveling with John Peter Byrns, of Hoffman Estates, Illinois. >> Read more trending news  At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Orange County deputies contacted Bibb County deputies, who were contacted by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent two hours later, officials said. Byrns and Alice were found shortly before 6 p.m. in a room at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites near Macon, deputies said. Investigators said charges are pending against Byrns, who is being held at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center. Alice was reunited with her parents Sunday evening.

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