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    WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators are moving to boost transparency for online political ads, unveiling on Thursday what could be the first of several pieces of legislation to try to lessen influence from Russia or other foreign actors on U.S. elections. The bill by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to keep public files of election ads and meet the same disclaimer requirements as political broadcast and print advertising. Federal regulations now require television and radio stations to make publicly available the details of political ads they air. That includes who runs the ad, when it runs and how much it costs. The bill also would require companies to 'make reasonable efforts' to ensure that election ads are not purchased directly or indirectly by a foreign national. The move comes after Facebook revealed that ads that ran on the company's social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 election. Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 race, and Klobuchar is the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees elections. The legislation also has support from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Lawmakers on the Senate intelligence panel and other committees investigating Russian influence have said one of the main roles of Congress will be to pass legislation to try to stop the foreign meddling. That's in contrast to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating and has the ability to prosecute if he finds any criminal wrongdoing. Other lawmakers are working on legislation to help states detect if foreign actors are trying to hack into their systems. That's after the Department of Homeland Security said that 21 states had their election systems targeted by Russian government hackers. But it's unclear if Congress will be able to agree on any such legislation amid heightened partisan tensions. Warner and Klobuchar are still trying to woo additional Senate and House Republicans, who have spent much of the year rolling back federal regulations they see as burdensome. McCain, who has for years broken with many of his GOP colleagues on campaign finance laws, said in a statement that he has 'long fought to increase transparency and end the corrupting influence of special interests in political campaigns, and I am confident this legislation will modernize existing law to safeguard the integrity of our election system.' Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said he wants to wait until after an upcoming hearing with social media executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google before weighing in on the legislation. Late last month, after Warner first floated the bill, Burr said it was too soon to discuss legislation and that the hearing will 'explore for the first time any holes that might exist in social media platform regulation or campaign law.' Another Republican member of the intelligence panel, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, said he has concerns about the bill, including that 'there is a difference between the public airwaves and privately held fiber, basically, and how it's managed.' He said the 'idea isn't bad,' but he wants to look at the technical issues. Lankford said he believes there will be several pieces of legislation coming out of the Russia probe, but 'whether that's the first or not, I don't know.' Announcing the legislation at a news conference, the two Democrats framed the issue as a matter of national security. 'Russia attacked us and will continue to use different tactics to undermine our democracy and divide our country, including by purchasing disruptive online political ads,' Klobuchar said. 'We have to secure our election systems and we have to do it now.' Warner, who has worked closely with Burr on the intelligence panel, has said repeatedly that he hopes the social media companies will work with them on the legislation, which he calls 'the lightest touch possible.' The companies have said very little publicly about the bill or the prospect of regulation. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company will now require political ads to disclose who is paying for them, a move that Warner and Klobuchar said their bill would 'formalize and expand.' 'We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising,' Erin Egan, Facebook vice president for United States public policy, said in a statement after Warner and Klobuchar introduced their bill. 'We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution.' Google also said it supports efforts to 'improve transparency, enhance disclosures, and reduce foreign abuse.' The company said it is evaluating steps it can take. Twitter would only stay in a statement that 'we look forward to engaging with Congress and the FEC on these issues.' The Federal Election Commission regulates campaign finance laws. Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan election advocacy group, said that some foreign entities could potentially get around the legislation if it were passed, but it would make it harder for them and put more responsibility on the companies. 'There is a difference between them saying they will do something and the law saying they have to do something,' Noble said. ___ Associated Press writers Barbara Ortutay in New York and Ryan Nakashima in Menlo Park, Calif. contributed to this report.
  • Melania Trump is donating her inaugural ball gown to the First Ladies' Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. The first lady is handing over the vanilla silk, off-the-shoulder gown during a ceremony Friday in Washington. The gown also featured a slit skirt, ruffled accent trim from the neckline to the hem and a claret ribbon around the waist. Mrs. Trump worked with designer Herve Pierre on the gown. Pierre is also scheduled to attend the event at the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian says the First Ladies Collection has been one of its most popular attractions for more than a century. Mrs. Trump's gown will be added to the exhibit that features 26 dresses, including some worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, along with other items.
  • Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, said Wednesday that art therapy, a little-known mental health profession that she has championed for years, is the issue she will highlight during the Trump administration. She said in a speech in Florida that her goals are to raise awareness about art therapy, help people understand that it's available for everyone and encourage more people, particularly students, to choose it as a career. Such therapists are trained to help people use all forms of art to cope with life's challenges. 'All of us could benefit from art therapy,' said Mrs. Pence, who spoke at Florida State University because it has a respected art therapy program. She has a master's in art education, taught for 25 years, including as an elementary school art teacher, and is a watercolor artist. But Mrs. Pence said she didn't become aware of art therapy until about a decade ago when she visited a program for pediatric cancer patients in Washington. She since has met with numerous art therapists and observed programs in the United States and abroad. 'Art therapy is changing lives,' she said. She told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview before her formal announcement that she didn't 'think a lot of people understand the difference between therapeutic art and art therapy.' Blabbing to a girlfriend can be therapeutic, she explained, but it is not the same as formal therapy. As passionate as she is about lifting art therapy's profile, Mrs. Pence is interested in several other issues. One is helping military families, especially spouses. Her only son, Michael, is in the Marines. She's also interested in honeybees. Mrs. Pence installed a beehive on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, home to the vice president's official residence, to help call attention to a decline in managed bee colonies that officials say could negatively affect U.S. agricultural production. When Vice President Mike Pence was Indiana's governor, she had a beehive at that residence for the same reason. Since returning to Washington in January (the family lived in the area when Mike Pence served in the House), Karen Pence has accompanied the vice president on tours of Europe, Asia and Latin America, as well as trips to survey recent hurricane damage in Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She visits art therapy programs wherever she goes. Journalists who travel with Pence often keep an eye out for his wife. She often brings them cookies when he ventures back to the press cabin for small talk. She's even done some campaigning, urging Virginians to vote next month for Republican Ed Gillespie in what's viewed as a tight gubernatorial race. From her sunny, second-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, where she and her staff have coveted views of the Washington Monument, Mrs. Pence proudly displayed several of her watercolors, including of a Capitol dome, the vice president's official residence, a Ball canning jar used as a flower vase, a cardinal bird and a pink peony. The latter two are Indiana state symbols. She said she turns many of her watercolors into prints and boxed notecards that she gifts to art therapists and others. Mrs. Pence also started a blog Wednesday to chronicle her visits to art therapy programs. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • A federal judge on Wednesday pressed government lawyers to explain why President Donald Trump's ownership of hotels patronized by foreign government officials didn't violate the Constitution, a key question that could shed light on Trump's finances if a civil lawsuit heard in New York is allowed to proceed. At issue in the case brought by the left-leaning public policy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is the interpretation of the so-called foreign 'Emoluments Clause' of the Constitution, a provision meant to prohibit bribery of federal officials by foreign governments. A lawyer for CREW, which represents competing restaurateurs, hotel owners and others in the industry, said during oral arguments in Manhattan federal court that by doing business with foreign officials with an interest in currying favor with the White House, Trump runs afoul of the Constitution. A lawyer for the Department of Justice disagreed, saying a violation only happens if an actual act is done in exchange for a payment. U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels said he'd rule on whether the case can go forward in the next 30 to 60 days. The government has sought to dismiss the case. If Daniels allows the case to proceed, it could reveal much about Trump's business and personal finances, possibly forcing him to disclose tax returns and other financial information in the course of discovery. Trump, who made his fortune in real estate, marketing and entertainment, bucked decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential elections. That has fueled suspicions about his possible conflicts-of-interests as well as concerns about the source of his income, including whether any of it comes from sources abroad. Government lawyer Brett Shumate argued for a precise definition of the Emoluments Clause, saying that because an emolument includes the exchange of payment for an official act, Trump's business income couldn't qualify as such a payment. Daniels repeatedly questioned him on that point and others, proposing that if the president promises to take an official act in exchange for money — by signing a treaty, for example — the money transferred is an emolument whether or not the president ever follows through on the action. The framers of the Constitution didn't just want the president not to take money from foreign governments, 'they wanted him to not take the promise of the money,' he said. Later in the hearing, Daniels pushed CREW attorney Deepak Gupta to explain why the issue is even something the courts should have to resolve, asking at one point whether Congress, instead of the courts, was best suited to resolve the case. 'They have the power to act if they had a concern about acting,' Daniels said, at one point likening litigation on behalf of rival hotels, restaurants and good-government groups to 'a street fight' with the president. The clause at issue allows for that, saying no U.S. official can 'accept any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state' without the consent of Congress. Attorneys for CREW say that court precedent on the topic gives the judicial branch authority to explore the issue. CREW, in a lawsuit first filed in January, has argued that Trump, who didn't put his businesses in a blind trust after becoming president, has an unfair business advantage while in the White House that harms his rivals in the industry, taking away their business and enriching him by actors with an incentive to curry favor for official acts. As part of their case, they submitted affidavits from industry experts detailing the competitiveness in the market for high-end hotels and restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C., that cater to foreign diplomats and other government officials. Two other emoluments-related lawsuits have also been filed against Trump by members of Congress and the attorney generals for Maryland and the District of Columbia. ___ Abdollah reported from Washington.
  • Women lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers in California's Capitol are encouraging each other to share stories of sexual harassment in the workplace in an effort to show its pervasiveness and to ensure more men stand up against it. The open letter from nearly 150 women posted online Monday letter adds to a growing chorus of women posting about harassment and unwanted advances from men following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. 'As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been different,' the two-page letter reads. 'It has not.' The letter does not accuse any men in the California Legislature by name. But it decries a wider culture that encourages women to stay silent over fears of professional and social repercussions. The signers also created a website called 'We Said Enough' for women to tell their stories. 'It was just really important that we start to talk about a culture and a change in culture,' said Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, a Democrat who signed the letter. 'When you make it about one person, it loses sight of how pervasive the problem is.' Burke is among at least six female lawmakers who signed the letter alongside current and former legislative staff members, lobbyists, political workers and state government employees from both political parties. The idea for the letter began when Adama Iwu, senior director of state and local government relations for Visa, was talking on Friday with a friend about an 'unfortunate encounter' with a male colleague. The two decided to write a letter, never guessing it would generate so many signatures so quickly. 'We're just realizing this is a moment when we should be talking about these things in the open, and we should be coming to grips with them instead of internalizing our shame,' Iwu said. Burke said she once watched a male colleague do nothing as another man in the Capitol pushed up against her and made inappropriate comments. She told him to stop and confronted her colleague, who warned her not to 'be that person' who can't take a joke, she said. The male leaders of California's legislature — Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon — highlighted efforts to combat sexual harassment in the Legislature, including mandatory training. The Senate is reviewing policies to 'promote a safe workplace and culture of respect,' de Leon said. 'That being said — as we've learned in recent days — there's always more employers can do to protect their employees,' he said in a statement. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat who also signed the letter, said the work in the Legislature is far from completed. Garcia described a male lobbyist once grabbing her and a male colleague she confided in encouraging her not to say anything because the lobbyist was politically powerful. Garcia and other women in the Capitol have become a support system for each other; with book clubs and office gatherings often turning into venues for discussing how best to fight harassment, long before the Weinstein allegations broke open. With the letter, the women hope those conversations will now happen out in the open — with men, too. 'When you see — or experience — inappropriate behavior, don't sweep it under the rug,' the letter concludes. 'Speak up, speak loud, and know there is a community of people who will support you.
  • A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against The Associated Press by a Russian billionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said in the 21-page ruling that aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who sued over a March story about his business relationship with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, had 'cherry-picked sentences' that he wrongly claimed were defamatory. She noted that Deripaska 'does not dispute any material facts' presented by the news cooperative about his background and his role in advocating for Russian interests internationally. The judge also said Deripaska had failed to show the AP's story was published with actual malice or with reckless disregard for the truth, a legal standard he would have to meet for the case to move forward. Instead, she said, Deripaska had merely complained that the story omitted what he considered crucial background. 'As the AP points out,' Huvelle wrote, 'this simply is not enough to make out a plausible case of actual malice.' The judge agreed with the AP's characterization of Deripaska as a 'limited-purpose public figure,' whose wealth and interactions with the Russian government had made him the legitimate subject of media coverage for more than a decade. Public figures have a higher legal burden to meet in arguing that statements about them are defamatory. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, which means Deripaska cannot bring it again. 'The Associated Press is pleased with the court's decision. As we have said, we stand by our reporting and will continue to stand by our story,' the news organization said in a statement. The AP asked in July for the lawsuit to be dismissed, saying that Deripaska was challenging the article based on his own 'strained implications' rather than what it actually said. Huvelle echoed that defense in rejecting as defamatory three separate statements that Deripaska had selected from the story. 'Deripaska has cherry-picked sentences and strung them together to give the AP's article an effect it does not have when read in full,' the judge wrote. 'But whole context is how courts determine whether there is defamation.' The AP story was based on interviews with people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records, including strategy memoranda and records of international wire transfers for millions of dollars. The story revealed how Manafort, a decade before joining the Trump campaign, had proposed to Deripaska a confidential business strategy to support pro-Russian political parties and to influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit Putin's government.
  • President Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been subpoenaed for records related to past sexual assault allegations against Trump — charges the president on Monday dismissed as 'made-up stuff.' Lawyers for Summer Zervos, a former contestant on 'The Apprentice,' asked the campaign in March to preserve any records in its possession concerning Zervos or other women who accused Trump of misconduct. Zervos says Trump kissed and groped her against her will in 2007. During a Rose Garden press conference, Trump dismissed the allegations as politically motivated. 'All I can say is it's totally fake news — just fake. It's fake, it's made-up stuff. And it's disgraceful what happens,' he said. 'That happens in the world of politics.' Zervos' request was filed as part of a defamation lawsuit. Lawyers for Trump For President agreed in April to hold on to any related records. Those sorts of subpoenas are routine in civil litigation. It isn't clear yet whether the case will advance far enough that the Trump campaign will be required to actually turn over those records. Trump's lawyers have asked that the case be dismissed, or delayed until he is no longer president. Three legal scholars who, 20 years ago, submitted a brief to the Supreme Court arguing that President Bill Clinton wasn't immune from a sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones, filed a similar brief in the Zervos case last month. The law professors, Richard Primus, of the University of Michigan Law School, and Justin Florence and Larry Schwartztol, of The Protect Democracy Project, said Trump also isn't immune from the Zervos lawsuit. 'No one in our nation is above the law, not even the president,' they wrote. A decision on whether the lawsuit can proceed is not expected for some time.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he thinks NFL players should stop protesting during the national anthem and instead speak out against domestic violence. The Republican former presidential hopeful sent a letter Monday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith saying he believes players are showing disrespect for the flag and veterans. Players should drop the 'divisive political sideshow' and speak out against domestic violence instead, the governor wrote. NFL league meetings Tuesday offer an opportunity to strongly condemn domestic violence, Walker added. 'My request is simple: stand for the American flag and the national anthem out of respect for those who risk their lives for our freedoms, and then take a stand against domestic violence to keep American families safe,' Walker wrote. 'That's something we can all agree on, and that just might help the NFL reunite with many of its devoted fans.' Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protests last season when he refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. With Kaepernick out of the league this year, other players have taken up his cause. President Donald Trump has been pressuring owners to discipline players who don't stand for the anthem. Asked why Walker decided to inject himself into the debate, the governor's spokesman, Tom Evenson, said October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the governor was moved by survivors' stories he heard at the annual Governor's Council on Domestic Abuse awards ceremony last week. The letter comes a day after the Green Bay Packers lost star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone during a game against the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers may be out for the season. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said backup Brett Hundley will replace Rodgers. Still, questions are swirling about whether the Packers might try to sign Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee and lived in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, until he was four years old. Evenson said the letter wasn't meant to signal the Packers shouldn't consider Kaepernick as a replacement for Rodgers. Walker tweeted yesterday after the game that the Packers should sign former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who played for Burlington High School in southeastern Wisconsin. Romo retired from football this year and now works as a game commentator for CBS. Asked for a response to Walker's letter, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press that the NFL is addressing domestic violence issues through training for men and women affiliated with the league and its teams. He added that people who fall below the league's standards are held accountable through a revised personal conduct policy. He didn't address Walker's letter or the anthem protests. A spokeswoman for the players association didn't immediately reply to an emails seeking comment. Wisconsin state Rep. Melissa Sargent, a Madison Democrat, issued a statement accusing Walker of ignoring domestic violence within the NFL for years. She said Walker's letter is a political stunt designed to make himself feel relevant. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Walker tweeted after the game, not during it. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1
  • Hustler founder Larry Flynt is looking for information that will lead to President Donald Trump's impeachment – and he's willing to pay for it. According to The Associated Press, the 74-year-old pornography publisher placed a full-page ad in Sunday's Washington Post to 'announce a cash offer of up to $10 million' for the information. See the ad here. 'I do not expect any of Trump's billionaire cronies to rat him out, but I am confident that there are many people in the know for whom $10 million is a lot of money,' the ad reads. 'And just because you pay for information doesn't mean it's not good. Make no mistake, I fully intend to pay this entire sum.' >> Read more trending news The ad continues: 'Sure, I could use that $10 million to buy luxuries or further my businesses, but what good would that do me in a world devastated by the most powerful moron in history? I feel it is my patriotic duty, and the duty of all Americans, to dump Trump before it's too late.' This isn't the first time Flynt has offered money to derail Trump. The AP reported that Flynt offered $1 million during the 2016 presidential campaign for video or audio of Trump 'behaving in an illegal or sexually demeaning manner.' Read more here.
  • Pornography publisher Larry Flynt is offering 'up to $10 million' to anyone who produces information that leads to President Donald Trump's impeachment and removal from office. He lays out the offer in a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post. During last year's presidential campaign, Flynt dangled $1 million to anyone who could turn over video or audio capturing Trump behaving in an illegal or sexually demeaning manner. That followed the release of the 2005 'Access Hollywood' video in which Trump bragged of imposing himself on women. In Sunday's ad, Flynt asks for any 'smoking gun' that is fit to publish and drives Trump from office. The White House didn't comment.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Neighbors in St. Johns County are outraged after hearing about plans to possibly build a massive gas station right across the street from where they live. The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application to open the convenience store near World Golf Village. A massive gas station called Buc-ee's that houses 120 fuel stations could be coming to St. Johns Co @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/ctx1x71VuD — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 'I don't want it, it's getting too congested now,' neighbor Nancy Kohlbeck said.  And hundreds of people living in World Golf Village feel the same way about the Texas convenience store chain. 'Trying to be upscale and this will just kill the whole flavor of the neighborhood,' neighbor Michele Thomas said.  I spoke to neighbors about the site plans & they tell me they don't want it to be built in their area @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/Lqxr2HPw0Y — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 In less than 48 hours, close to 1,000 people signed a Change.org petition to stop it from being built near their neighborhood.  'I know that development is inevitable here, but I think it's our chance to control what kind of development we have,' neighbor Aaron Enos said.  The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre application to open the convenience store near WGV https://t.co/wPVhW1YKmx @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/yvL1El3auV — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application for the 120 gas pump station and at about 53,000 square feet, it’s about the size of a football field.  'It will drive down our property values. There's no way people will want to live near something that huge,' Thomas said.  The property off Interstate 95 near World Golf Village is where the gas station would be built.  'I'm not against business, but put it in the right area,' Kohlbeck said.  Some neighbors call this a sign of the unstoppable growth in St. Johns County.  'It's just progress, it’s going to happen,' neighbor, Van Fuller said.  Others just wish the growth would come at a little smaller pace. 'Maybe we can have something like local businesses,' Enos said.  The petition will go before county commissioners in hopes of halting the construction. Michael Ryan, Communications Manager for the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, released the following statement on the proposed Buc-ee's station: “We are aware of community interest in the proposed service station project, but at this point in time we are only in possession of a pre-application and have not been provided with specific details related to the project. Once an application is filed, the project will undergo development review and will be subject to land use and zoning requirements. Should the developer request variances, those items will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners, where the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Residents are encouraged to email or call County staff or their Commissioner with any comment they may have about this project.”
  • A man accused of murdering a New Orleans police officer in 2015 halted jury selection in his trial Wednesday by smearing feces on his face, head and mouth, horrifying potential jurors and courtroom spectators.  Travis Boys, 35, apparently put the feces, wrapped in tissue, in his pocket during a bathroom break earlier in the day, NOLA.com reported. He was seated at the defense table with his attorneys when he pulled the tissue out and silently rubbed the waste on himself.  >> Read more trending news Boys is charged with first-degree murder in the June 20, 2015, shooting death of Officer Daryle Holloway. The officer was transporting Boys to jail when Boys allegedly shot him inside his police SUV.  Boys escaped custody and was at large for about 24 hours before being recaptured. If convicted, he faces life in prison.  The Advocate reported that criminal defense lawyer David Belfield, who is Holloway’s uncle, witnessed the incident. Belfield said he believed Boys was trying to sway potential jurors.  “It’s calculated, and it shows that he’s not insane, not crazy,” Belfield told the newspaper.  Boys has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the Advocate reported. District Court Judge Karen Herman ruled last month that Boys was competent to stand trial in Holloway’s slaying.  After halting the proceedings Wednesday, however, Herman ordered that another competency hearing be held on Thursday. His attorneys have argued that Boys suffers from low IQ and mental health problems.  Though Herman ruled him competent to stand trial, she is allowing the defense to present evidence of schizophrenia in Boys’ family, the Advocate said.  The judge dismissed the panel of potential jurors who witnessed Boys’ actions on Wednesday.  The Advocate reported that the odor of bleach clung to the air an hour after the incident. 
  • Former President George W. Bush warned Americans to be wary of growing trends toward nativism and isolationism on Thursday during a speech at the Bush Institute’s national forum. >> Read more trending news “Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” The speech was widely interpreted as a veiled message aimed at the politics of President Donald Trump, who has often touted an “America first” view of world politics. However, Trump was not named in the speech. Read Bush’s full remarks from the forum, “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World”: Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here. And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries. I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny. Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie (Tom Bernstein), I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.) It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and applause) Thank you. We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand. Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other. And free trade helped make America into a global economic power. For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism. We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy. This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world. That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change. Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual. These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union. America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness. We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values. This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper. The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats. America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion. The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.  Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed. We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions. And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country. A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young. Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.) And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them. Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust. For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression. In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation. Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence. Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections. Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal. Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another. Thank you.
  • There’s an active investigation underway in Fleming Island, where we’re told a person was stabbed. The condition of that victim isn’t clear at this time. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says they’re speaking with several people, but there have not been any arrests at this time. This appears to be an incident between acquaintances, so there is no ongoing threat to the community. CCSO doesn’t yet know the motive. Initially, CCSO reported this incident as two people who were stabbed. They’ve since revised that to show one of the victims had been cut in a prior, unrelated incident that didn’t take place in Clay County.
  • An Alabama man gunned down outside a gas station in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon had previously been shot 10 times in a six-month period.  Antoine “Twin” Collier, 29, of Birmingham, was killed when two unidentified gunmen fired more than 40 bullets in the parking lot of an Exxon service station in the city, AL.com reported. He died on the sidewalk in front of the store.  A Birmingham police spokesman said the shooting took place just before 1:30 p.m., as Collier and his girlfriend were entering the convenience store. AL.com reported that Collier’s girlfriend was not injured, but a female bystander who had just gotten food at a pizza place adjoining the Exxon was struck multiple times. The unidentified woman was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.  >> Read more trending news Police officials were familiar with Collier, who investigators believe was the target in the shooting that ultimately took his life. “These guys were looking for him,” Lt. Sean Edwards, a police spokesman, told AL.com. “It’s obvious they were looking for him. They definitely targeted him.” In at least two of the previous shootings in which Collier was injured, he was accused of stealing illegal drugs from another person, police officials said. Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper said the circumstances that may have led to his killing do not matter. “It’s a tragedy for his family, but regardless of the circumstances that led to his murder, we need to bring the killers to justice,” Roper told AL.com.  In April, Collier’s mother, Kimberly Flowers, spoke out about her son’s past.  “I’m the mother who hates to answer the phone,” Flowers said at the time. “You worry about your child.” Her son, whose name was not made public at that time because he was a target for harm, had been released from prison a year before, but kept finding himself in trouble. The most recent shooting prior to Tuesday’s fatal one had been the most serious, with Collier suffering a gunshot wound to the face.  At the time of Flowers’ April media interview, Collier was still recovering from that shooting in a protective rehabilitation facility, AL.com reported. In a text message, Collier expressed hope that participation in the city’s Violence Reduction Initiative could help him turn his life around. “I’ve cried till I can’t cry anymore, ‘cause I’m blessed,” Collier wrote, according to AL.com. “I think when my health gets better, I wanna speak to young black males about violence.”  Collier was released from the rehab facility this summer. 

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