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    Scottish lawmakers voted Tuesday to seek a new referendum on independence, to be held within the next two years — an unwanted headache for the British government as it prepares to push the European Union exit button. The Edinburgh-based legislature voted 69-59 to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call to ask the British government for an independence vote. Outside, several dozen independence supporters bearing Scottish and EU flags broke into cheers and tears of joy as the news broke. Sturgeon says Scots must be given the chance to vote on their future before Britain leaves the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to launch the U.K's two-year process of exiting the EU on Wednesday by triggering Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty. Britain as a whole voted to leave the bloc in a referendum last year, but Scots voted by a large margin to stay. 'Scotland's future should be in Scotland's hands,' Sturgeon told lawmakers before the vote. Scottish voters rejected independence in a 2014 referendum that Sturgeon's Scottish National Party called a once-in-a-generation vote. But Sturgeon says Brexit has changed the situation dramatically. She says there should be a new vote on independence between fall 2018 and spring 2019, when details of Britain's divorce terms with the bloc are clear. Sturgeon said that whatever the final terms, Brexit would mean 'significant and profound' change for Scotland. 'That change should not be imposed upon us,' she said. 'We should have the right to decide the nature of that change.' May, whose government must approve the referendum for it to be legally binding, says the time is not right. She says all parts of the U.K. — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — must pull together to get the best-possible deal with the EU. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson agreed, saying Tuesday that Scots do not want 'the division and rancor of another referendum campaign.' The Scottish parliament had been due to vote on Sturgeon's referendum demand last week, but the session was adjourned after Wednesday's extremist attack in London. Sturgeon's referendum call was backed by the governing Scottish nationalists and the Greens, and opposed by the Conservative and Labour parties. It's unclear what could break the stalemate between Edinburgh and London. British officials have indicated they would not agree to another independence referendum until Britain's EU exit is over and done with — a process that could take longer than two years. David Mundell, the British government's Scotland minister, said the U.K. government would not be 'entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.' 'It's not appropriate to have a referendum whilst people do now know what the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU will be,' he said. Sturgeon said after the vote that she would 'seek sensible and constructive discussion' with the British government later this week. 'I hope the United Kingdom government will respect the view of parliament,' she said. 'This is simply about giving people in Scotland a choice.' Should that fail, Sturgeon promised to inform the parliament of next steps after its Easter break next month. ___ Lawless reported from London.
  • Embracing the European Union could be seen as a risky move for politicians given Britain's decision to abandon the bloc and the renewed popularity of nationalist parties. But French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron is doing just that. Macron, 39, an independent centrist with pro-free market views, is fiercely promoting common European ideals of peace, prosperity and freedom with a blitz of campaign events across France and Europe to explain to voters why the EU matters. While British Prime Minister Theresa May will officially trigger divorce proceedings from the bloc Wednesday, Macron's campaign team held pro-Europe events in cities around France over the weekend as the EU marked its 60th birthday. The former French economy minister described himself as an 'enthusiastic, yet lucid European' in a joint interview with French newspaper Liberation and Italian newspaper last week. He said with Britain leaving, the bloc needs to build a new leadership base anchored by France and Germany. The EU needs 'urgent' reforms because 'for the first time, many foreign leaders openly want a weakening of Europe: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, as well as the main authoritarian leaders of the Middle East,' Macron said. One of the reforms he advocates is new cooperation on defense, a move he said would be operated by France and Germany in association with Italy, Spain and possibly the United Kingdom, even after its exit from the EU. To improve the continent's security and fight against terrorism, Macron wants the bloc to be able to deploy at least 5,000 European border guards to 'strengthen controls at the external borders' of the Schengen passport-free travel zone. He also wants the 19 nations that use the euro as their official currency to harmonize their tax policies to allow for fairer economic competition between companies that want to work in other countries. Polls suggest Macron and Marine Le Pen, the anti-immigration, anti-European Union leader of the National Front, are likely to be the two top finishers in the first round of the presidential vote on April 23. If that happens, Le Pen and Macron would go head-to-head in a May 7 runoff. Le Pen wants to pull France from the euro currency and from the European Union. On Monday, she described Macron as 'an immigrationist' because he has backed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's policies to welcome refugees from Syria. Macron met with Merkel earlier this month in Berlin, where he called for a 'new Franco-German deal' that would involve 'much more structured cooperation' on investment, on European border security, and on defense issues — in particular in the Middle East and Africa. 'You cannot be tentatively European; otherwise it's already lost,' the candidate told Liberation and La Repubblica. 'Anti-Europeans' violence is such that we need to repeat over and over what Europe has given us and can still give us, if we are involved in changing it....What Marine Le Pen wants is to recreate conflicts in Europe.' The continent's future is a strong, recurrent theme in the French presidential campaign. Politicians acknowledge a growing discontent with EU institutions, often seen by voters as distant and lacking democratic legitimacy. Conservative contender Francois Fillon advocates for a powerful Europe that would at the same time respect every nation's sovereignty. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon wants a more democratic Europe, with representatives of national parliaments being entitled to gather and discuss the budget of the Eurozone. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon harshly criticizes free market policies and strict budget rules that he says were imposed in the EU by Germany. He has pledged to renegotiate the European treaties and says if the plan fails, he would move to take France out of the EU. The 27 nations that will make up the European Union once Britain exits the bloc renewed their vow of unity Saturday in the face of crises that are increasingly testing the bonds between members. Acknowledging that there won't be agreement on every issue, EU leaders also approved giving member nations more freedom to form partial alliances when unanimity is out of reach. 'We have united for the better. Europe is our common future,' the declaration said.
  • The World Video Game Hall of Fame's 2017 finalists span decades and electronic platforms, from the 1981 arcade classic 'Donkey Kong' that launched Mario's plumbing career to the 2006 living room hit 'Wii Sports,' that made gamers out of grandparents. The hall of fame at The Strong museum in Rochester said Tuesday that 12 video games are under consideration for induction in May. They also include: 'Final Fantasy VII,' ''Halo: Combat Evolved,' ''Microsoft Windows Solitaire,' ''Mortal Kombat,' ''Myst,' ''Pokemon Red and Green,' ''Portal,' ''Resident Evil,' ''Street Fighter II' and 'Tomb Raider.' The finalists were chosen from thousands of nominations from more than 100 countries, said museum officials, who will rely on an international committee of video game scholars and journalists to select the 2017 class. The winners will be inducted May 4. 'What they all have in common is their undeniable impact on the world of gaming and popular culture,' said Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong's International Center for the History of Electronic Games.' The hall of fame recognizes electronic games that have achieved icon status and geographical reach, and that have influenced game design or popular culture. The class of 2017 will be the third group to go into the young hall, joining 'DOOM,' ''Grand Theft Auto III,' ''The Legend of Zelda,' ''The Oregon Trail,' ''Pac-Man,' ''Pong,' ''The Sims,' ''Sonic the Hedgehog,' ''Space Invaders,' Tetris, 'World of Wardcraft,' and 'Super Mario Bros.,' whose title character got his start in this year's 'Donkey Kong' entry. More about this year's finalists, according The Strong: —'Donkey Kong' (1981): Helped to launch the career of game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and sold an estimated 132,000 arcade cabinets. —'Final Fantasy VII' (1997): The Sony Playstation's second-most popular game introduced 3-D computer graphics and full motion video, selling more than 10 million units. —'Halo: Combat Evolved' (2001): A launch game for Microsoft's Xbox system, the science-fiction game sold more than 6 million copies and inspired sequels, spin-offs, novels, comic books and action figures. —'Microsoft Windows Solitaire' (1991): Based on a centuries-old card game, it has been installed on more than 1 billion home computers and other machines since debuting on Windows 3.0. —'Mortal Kombat' (1992): The game's realistic violence was debated internationally and in Congress and was a factor in the 1994 creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. —'Myst' (1993): The slow-paced, contemplative game harnessed early CD-ROM technology and became the best-selling computer game in the 1990s, selling 6 million copies. —'Pokemon Red and Green' (1996): Since appearing on the Nintendo Game Boy, the Pokemon phenomenon has produced more than 260 million copies of its games, 21.5 billion trading cards, more than 800 television episodes and 17 movies. —'Portal' (2007): The Game Developers Conference's 2008 Game of the Year was the breakout hit out of the four first-person shooter games it was packaged with, recognized for game mechanics that relied on portal physics. —'Resident Evil' (1996): Among spin-offs of the survival horror game are movies that have grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide, as well as themed restaurants and novels. —'Street Fighter II' (1991): One of the top-selling arcade games ever helped spark an arcade renaissance in the 1990s and inspired numerous sequels. —'Tomb Raider' (1996): Its female protagonist, Lara Croft, is the face of a franchise that has sold more than 58 million units worldwide, helped in part by actress Angelina Jolie's movie portrayal. —'Wii Sports' (2006): Launched with the Nintendo Wii home video game system, its motion-control technology let gamers of any age serve a tennis ball or throw a left hook and helped push Wii console sales to more than 100 million.
  • Lawyers say a Roman Empire-era coffin depicting the 12 labors of Hercules is set to go home to Turkey, ending a legal battle over a prized artifact that had mysteriously turned up in Geneva's secretive customs-office warehouse years ago. The Inanna Art Services, a private cultural goods importer that had legal possession of the three-ton marble sarcophagus, had tried for months to block the restitution before deciding two weeks ago 'to contribute to the return' by abandoning its efforts in Swiss courts, said Didier Bottge, a lawyer for the importer, in a phone interview on Tuesday. From his clients' viewpoint, 'the case is closed,' said Bottge. Inanna had appealed a decision in September 2015 by the Geneva's public prosecutor's office to hand over what it called the 'priceless' sarcophagus to Turkey. The planned handover, expected sometime in the coming months, marks a successful cooperation between Swiss and Turkish authorities at a time of tensions between their two countries. Swiss authorities are investigating whether any laws were broken when protesters against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend held up a banner bearing the words 'Kill Erdogan,' as well as allegations of spying by people linked to Turkey in the Alpine nation. The decision follows a nearly seven-year legal saga for the sarcophagus after it turned up in the secretive Geneva Free Ports warehouse. Cultural officials have said the coffin, showing scenes like Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion and killing the Hydra, is one of 12 of its kind known in the world. It's been traced to the Roman city of Dokimeion, thought to have been in the modern-day province of Antalya in Turkey. After La Tribune de Geneve newspaper first reported last week that the sarcophagus would go home, Turkey's consulate in Geneva issued a statement over the weekend expressing its 'satisfaction' about the decision. It pointed to investigations by Geneva and Antalya prosecutors that indicated that the sarcophagus was taken out of the country after being unearthed in 'illegal' archaeological digs in the 1960s on the site of the necropolis in the ancient town of Perga in Antalya. It is not clear how the sarcophagus ended up under the legal possession of Inanna or how it came to the warehouse. French authorities have criticized Switzerland's free port system, saying their opaque nature means they are places where stolen art can be squirreled away. The Turkish consulate said the sarcophagus will go on a public exhibition before its transfer to the Archeological Museum in Antalya. Lawyer Marc-Andre Renold, an expert in cultural artifacts who represented the Turkish government, said the monetary value of the sarcophagus was estimated at 'several million' francs (dollars).
  • Three bodies, including those of a male and female Caucasian, have been found in Congo's Central Kasai province, the government said Tuesday, and are suspected to be those of U.N. experts who disappeared there two weeks ago with colleagues. Congolese spokesman Lambert Mende told Top Congo FM that the bodies were found Monday but did not confirm they were of Michael Sharp of the United States and Zaida Catalan of Sweden. 'To our knowledge, there are no other foreigners who have disappeared in this region,' Mende said, adding that the provincial commissioner was on his way to recover and identify the bodies of two Caucasians and a Congolese. Sharp's father, John Sharp of Hesston, Kansas, wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that the bodies of two Caucasians were found in shallow graves in the search area for the U.N. experts. 'Since no other Caucasians have been reported missing in that region, there is a high probability that these are the bodies of MJ and Zaida,' he wrote. 'Dental records and DNA samples will be used to confirm the identities. This will take some time. 'All other words fail me.' A U.N. spokesman in New York said the U.N. was analyzing the remains and could not confirm the identities of the dead as yet. Sharp, Catalan, interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi and two motorbike drivers went missing March 12 in Central Kasai while looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups. Their disappearance is the first time U.N. experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch has said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces. Parts of Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for decades, but violence in the Kasai provinces in central Congo represents a new expansion of tensions. The Kamwina Nsapu militia has been fighting security forces since last year, with the violence increasing after security forces killed the militia's leader in August. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the U.N. ___ Mwanamilongo reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed.
  • Hungary's new legislation allowing for the detention of asylum-seekers in shipping containers at border camps took effect Tuesday, with the European Union's commissioner for migration saying that it needs to comply with the bloc's rules. Dimitris Avramopoulos said that EU and Hungarian experts will meet to discuss the new law, which has been sharply criticized by U.N. agencies and human rights advocates. The new legislation is meant to complement the fences built by Hungary in 2015 and this year on the borders with Serbia and Croatia. The barriers have drastically reduced the number of migrants able to pass through the country on their way to Germany and other destinations in Western Europe. 'We decided to work together through our experts and ensure that EU rules also are complied with,' Avramopoulos said after meeting with Hungarian officials. 'The European principles have been jointly and unanimously agreed by all member states and should therefore be respected and implemented by everyone, too.' 'This implies giving effective access to the asylum procedure while fighting against abuses, but also ensuring a fair review of decisions,' the commissioner added. Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said that while there was agreement with the EU about the need to increase European security, there were differences on how to deal with migrants trying to enter countries while avoiding regular border controls. 'Our positions came closer even today and by the summer, we will find a way to express a common position,' Pinter said. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, said that the commissioner's visit was 'long overdue' and noted that other countries in the region, like Poland and Slovenia, were following Hungary's example by adopting similarly restrictive asylum rules. Hungary's new rules are 'designed to make it difficult to seek asylum there, and unpleasant or downright dangerous for those who do,' said Lydia Gall, an HRW researcher in Eastern Europe. She said that 'Avramopoulos should demand that Hungary change course. He should also be willing to use legal enforcement action if Hungary fails to comply.' Meanwhile, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an advocate for asylum-seekers, said that a temporary order late Monday from the European Court of Human Rights was meant to prevent Hungary from taking eight teenagers and a woman with a high-risk pregnancy from refugee reception centers to the shipping container border camps. 'The rules coming into force today simply deny protection to children, deny protection to refugees and essentially resort to illegal detention,' said Marta Pardavi, the Helsinki Committee's co-chair. Gyorgy Bakondi, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's national security adviser, said that 88 asylum-seekers, including 21 unaccompanied minors between the ages of 14 and 18, were now in reception centers around the country and could be taken to either of the two transit zones on the Serbian border, in the towns of Roszke and Tompa. 'We took these legal steps so that no one is able to enter Hungary illegally,' Bakondi said. 'Our aim is to decrease the security risk markedly present in Europe since 2015. We are protecting not only Hungary's borders, but Europe's as well.' U.N. children's agency UNICEF has also expressed concerns over that fact that unaccompanied minors older than 14 will also be detained in the border camps.
  • French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon assailed European austerity policies as he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, arguing that they have helped fuel the rise of the far right. Hamon followed conservative Francois Fillon and independent Emmanuel Macron in making the trip to France's traditional partner in European integration. He said after meeting the conservative chancellor that they agreed on reinforcing European defense and on upholding a peace agreement for Ukraine brokered by Germany and France, but differed on economic matters. 'I repeated to her my disagreement with austerity policies, the consequences that they have had on people, the fact that they have produced today social desperation that produces votes for the far right,' Hamon told reporters. Merkel has been a leading advocate in recent years of European countries cutting debts and getting their budgets in order. Hamon said he discussed with Merkel 'the weight today of (far-right leader) Marine Le Pen in the French political landscape, which I think is also one of the consequences of policies that have weakened public services, weakened social protection.' He said he also set out to Merkel proposals for giving decisions in the 19-nation eurozone 'greater diplomatic legitimacy,' and that the chancellor pointed out possible legal reservations and 'political difficulties.' The first round of France's presidential election will be held April 23. Polls favor Le Pen and Macron to advance to a runoff May 7. Hamon, the governing party's candidate, is squeezed between Macron and a candidate further to the left, Jean-Luc Melenchon. During Tuesday's visit, Hamon also met center-left leader Martin Schulz, Merkel's challenger in Germany's Sept. 24 election. Schulz offered Hamon his Social Democrats' support to Hamon, calling him 'a man of deep convictions.' The two leaders stressed the importance of fighting tax evasion and tax competition in Europe.
  • The Latest on France's presidential campaign (all times local): 6:30 p.m. Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has vowed to renew France's political elites by allowing new figures to join the government if elected in the upcoming presidential election. Macron said in a news conference a potential prime minister would need political experience, but other government members would be a mix of politicians and others from civil society groups and business. 'I wish for women and men who come from the private sector, who have competences in this sphere and who agree to put these competences for a few years at the service of the public,' he said. Macron said he is convinced that if the French people choose him as president, they will also vote for the candidates of his movement in the June parliamentarian elections, so that he will have a majority at the National Assembly. Macron, economy minister from 2014 to 2016, launched his En Marche! (In Motion!) movement last year. He has never held elected office. Polls suggest he is likely to be among the two top contenders in the first round of the presidential election on April 23 and to advance to the May 7 runoff. ___ 12:10 p.m. French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon has assailed European austerity policies as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguing that they have helped fuel the far right's rise. Hamon has met with Merkel and her center-left rival Martin Schulz in Berlin. He followed conservative Francois Fillon and independent Emmanuel Macron in making the trip to France's biggest European partner. Hamon said after meeting Merkel that they agreed on reinforcing European defense and on energy issues, but differed on economic matters. He told reporters: 'I repeated to her my disagreement with austerity policies, the consequences that they have had on people, the fact that they have produced today social desperation that produces votes for the far right.' France's two-round presidential election will be held April 23 and May 7. ___ 9:40 a.m. The wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is facing preliminary charges over well-paid parliamentary jobs that investigators suspect she never performed. Fillon himself has already been charged in the case, which has deeply damaged the conservative candidate's chances for the two-round election April 23 and May 7. He is suspected of embezzlement and other charges. Penelope Fillon is expected to face investigating judges Tuesday in Paris who can hand her preliminary charges in the case. Investigators recently expanded the probe on suspicions that the couple falsified documents after the investigation opened to prove that Penelope carried out parliamentary work for her husband. The Fillons have denied wrongdoing. Francois Fillon, once the front-runner, calls the investigation a smear campaign to torpedo his presidential campaign.
  • A French court on Tuesday convicted the man known as 'Carlos the Jackal,' once the world's most-wanted fugitive, of a deadly 1974 attack on a Paris shopping arcade and sentenced him to life in prison for the third time. The Venezuelan-born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez is already serving two life sentences in France for murders and attacks he was convicted of perpetrating or organizing on behalf of the Palestinian cause or of communist revolution in the 1970s and '80s. His lawyers, who had pleaded for acquittal, said they will appeal the latest verdict, though the third life sentence doesn't affect how long he will stay behind bars. A few hours before the decision was returned, the 67-year-old known worldwide as Carlos took the floor one last time and denounced 'an absurd trial' for a 42-year-old crime. He had denied involvement, saying there was no proof against him or direct witnesses. Five judges found Carlos, the only defendant in the case, guilty of throwing a grenade onto a shopping area in the French capital's Latin Quarter. Two people were killed and 34 injured at the trendy Drugstore Publicis. The lawyer for the two dead victims' families, Georges Holleaux, said that 'today we are extremely relieved.' 'The evidence exists, it's overwhelming, it was recognized (by the court) and justice is done,' Holleaux told reporters. 'Today's verdict is proof that there is nowhere, never, impunity if one is ready to fight. Let perpetrators of terrorist crimes know it: now the victims will never give up.' The case took so long to go to trial because it was first dismissed for lack of evidence. It was reopened after Carlos was arrested by French intelligence services in Sudan in 1994 and imprisoned in France. His lawyers introduced challenges at every stage of the proceedings. After the verdict was returned, one of Carlos' lawyers, Francis Vuillemin, argued the trial should never have been held because the case was beyond the normal statute of limitations. 'The media truth has permeated the judicial truth. The magistrates didn't dare acquit Carlos. Let's meet again in one year, for the appeal trial and for a new performance in this justice drama,' Vuillemin added. The Drugstore case, the oldest one formally blamed on Carlos in France, is also probably the last one to come to court, since he is not being investigated by French authorities for any other attacks. When the police arrived at the scene on that day in September 1974, they found a devastated mall with all the windows shattered, multiple bloodstains and a hole in the marble slab of the ground floor where the grenade fell. The two men who died were hit by metal chips that perforated vital organs and caused large internal bleeding, according to court documents. Prosecutor Remi Crosson du Cormier had asked the court to give Carlos a life sentence, the harshest sentence in French law, for 'the horror of this terrorist attack.' In a long interview published in Al Watan Al Arabi newspaper five years after the attack, a man presented as Carlos allegedly claimed he had himself thrown the grenade, telling the full details of the operation and the reason why it was carried out. Carlos later disputed he had ever given that interview. At the time of the attack, Ramirez Sanchez had not yet been dubbed Carlos the Jackal or become one of the most notorious international terrorists of those decades. He was 24 years old and already had joined the organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It was in the name of the Palestinian cause that he subsequently became the military chief of the PFLP in Europe, claiming the 'operational and political responsibility' for all the operations of the group on the continent and also for 'all the wounded and all the dead,' according to court documents. In one of his most dramatic operations, he led a commando that attacked a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria, in late 1975. He took more than 60 hostages, including 11 OPEC ministers. Three people were killed.
  • South Africa's finance minister returned to Johannesburg on Tuesday after being abruptly ordered to pull out of a trade promotion trip to Britain and the United States, fueling investor fears that he is about to be fired by President Jacob Zuma. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, 67, has a strong reputation as a bulwark against corruption and has reportedly blocked some questionable government deals over the management of state-owned companies like South African Airways. Gordhan has been criticized by several senior government officials allied to Zuma, 74. South Africa's rand has tumbled by close to 5 percent against the dollar since Zuma's office released a statement on Monday instructing Gordhan to immediately return to South Africa. Gordhan was in Britain as the head a delegation of South African government officials, business and labor representatives aiming to build confidence in investors in the United Kingdom and the United States. Soon after his return to South Africa, Gordhan was seen at the headquarters in Johannesburg of the ruling African National Congress party. Domestic and international investors see Gordhan as a symbol of economic stability in South Africa, where the economic growth has stalled and 6 million people, representing 27 percent of the working population, are unemployed. Credit ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's have warned that South Africa risks being downgraded to junk status if the government's management of the economy is viewed as corrupt and inefficient. Economists have warned of a fall in the value of the rand if Gordhan is fired.

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  • Three local men are among the 15 nabbed in an online child sex sting. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and five other law enforcement agencies - including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement - pitched in as the Gainesville Police Department led the way in Operation Resilient. GPD Chief Tony Jones says all the suspects made arrangements online to have sex with teenagers, but those suspects didn't know until it was too late that they were actually chatting with undercover detectives posing as the guardians of those teens. '15 men made the conscious decision to get into a vehicle and travel with the intention of having sex with a teenager,' Jones added. 'I'm proud of everyone involved in this operation as they seek to get these offenders behind bars and away from our children.' Among those arrested are 39-year-old Doe Doe (left in photo) and 22-year-old Cristian Torres-Vega (right), both from Jacksonville. The other local man arrested is 25-year-old Joshua Gillen (center) from Keystone Heights. Most of the others arrested come from Gainesville or the Alachua County area. Operation Resilient wrapped up in five days after beginning on March 15th, per GPD.
  • The news from retailers across the country this quarter has not been good.  More than two dozen stores and restaurants, including the likes of Macy's, Payless Shoes, Outback Steakhouse and Noodles and Company, have either closed locations or have announce plans to shutter stores across the country. As people choose e-commerce over shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, experts said customers can expect to see more deserted storefronts and “going out of business” signs. 'It's going to be a year of transition and a year of reckoning and a year of awakening for retailers,' said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analysis for the NPD Group. NPD Group conducts market research on consumer trends. More shoppers are eschewing retail outlets for the convenience of online shopping, made sweeter with deals from the likes of Amazon, which offers free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member.  Amazon has seen the benefits of such features. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the company saw a 22 percent increase in revenue over the fourth quarter of 2015. U.S. shoppers spent a record high $91.7 billion online during the 2016 holiday season. While e-commerce is seen as quick and generally easy, a study conducted in 2013 by WD Partners showed that nearly 80 percent of respondents said instant gratification was what got them out of their homes and into the malls.  Here’s a list of 15 retailers that have announced store closings for 2017. American Apparel – all 110 stores closed CVS – closing 70 stores Chico – closing 120 stores Crocs – closing 160 stores Family Christian – closing all of its 240 stores  JCPenney – closing 138 stores Kmart – closing 108 stores Macy's – closing 63 stores Office Depot – closing 100 stores Payless Shoes – closing 400-500 stores Radio Shack – closing 552 stores Sears – closing 42 stores The Limited – closed 250 stores in January The Children’s Place – closing as many as 200 stores H.H. Gregg – closing 88 stores  Several restaurant chains have also announced they will be closing locations in 2017 as well. Forty “underperforming” Carrabba’s, Outback, Bonefish Grill and Flemings restaurants will be closing by the end of the year, according to the company that owns them. In 2016, chains Bob Evans, Logan’s Roadhouse, Old Country Buffet and Ruby Tuesday all announced restaurant closings.
  • A federal investigation into the 2009 disappearance of a New York teenager has led FBI agents to gator-infested woods in South Carolina. According to the Post and Courier, 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel sneaked away from her home in Rochester, New York, to spend spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Drexel was last seen in security footage at a Myrtle Beach hotel on April 25, 2009.  >> Read more trending news In 2012, Drexel’s mother told a TV reporter she had learned her daughter had been “miserable” on the trip and had planned to leave anyway on the day she went missing. After years of minimal progress in the investigation, authorities received a tip from an inmate identified as Taquan Brown, alleging that he learned what happened to Drexel while visiting a so-called “stash house” in McClellanville, according to the Post and Courier.  Brown told investigators in August that Drexel was abducted, gang-raped, shot and thrown into an alligator-infested swamp. Brown also implicated then-16-year-old Timothy Taylor and his father, Shaun Taylor, in the crime, according to authorities. The FBI told the Post and Courier that “several witnesses have told us Miss Drexel’s body was placed in a pit, or gator pit, to have her body disposed of. Eaten by the gators.” The FBI is searching an area in Georgetown County, S.C., using an excavator to search a wooded area in Foxfire Court. Authorities have not provided any information on what they hope to find in the woods. >> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here No charges have been filed against Taylor, who maintains his innocence.  Investigators said Sunday that they are closer to making an arrest in the case, and are offering a $25,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest.  
  •   The suspected fentanyl-related overdoses of a Spirit Airlines pilot and his wife in their Dayton, Ohio-area home raise a frightening prospect: Has the opioid crisis that is destroying whole families entered the ranks of pilots entrusted with hundreds of lives each day? Investigators have offered no indication that Brian Halye used drugs while piloting aircraft during his nine years with Spirit Airlines, but a Dayton Daily News examination has uncovered a system in which commercial pilots can go years without being tested for drugs. >> Read more trending news Federal Aviation Administration’s guidance to airlines acknowledges the random drug test system established by U.S. code makes it “not uncommon for some employees to be selected several times, while other employees may never be chosen.” Moreover, pilots are not required to be drug tested during annual physical exams. Of the pilots tested from 2010-2015, 165 were found to be using one or more drugs, according to the FAA. Drug use among pilots is an enduring concern at the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency created by Congress to investigate transportation accidents and issue recommendations to improve safety. Related: More airline pilots testing positive for drug use In a 2014 study of fatally injured pilots from all forms of civil aviation, the NTSB said patterns of increasing drug use among pilots “are consistent with observed trends of increasing drug use by the U.S. population in general.” At the time, the most common illicit drug detected in pilots involved in fatal plane crashes was marijuana, which was found in less than 4 percent of all pilots tested between 2008 and 2012, and was not found in any of the airline pilots tested. But if Halye died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, as the Montgomery County Coroner’s office suspects, another concern may have unfolded. With heroin and fentanyl invading the ranks of so much of the general population, is it too much to conclude that it is also present among those flying aircraft? >> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here Halye and wife Courtney Halye were found by their four children in the bedroom of their Centerville home March 16. The coroner’s office is waiting on toxicology reports but has said the deaths appear to be fentanyl-related. Centerville police also say the drug use appears to be voluntary and consistent with an accidental overdose.  Spirit Airlines, a Florida-based “ultra-low fare” carrier, told the Dayton Daily News that it is “cooperating with any and all agencies investigating this case.” Related: Children find Spirit Airlines pilot, wife dead in apparent overdose A spokesman for the carrier would not say when, if ever, the airline tested Halye during his time as a pilot. The FAA declined to acknowledge whether it is investigating Spirit Airlines following Halye’s death. The agency confirmed it has inspected Spirit Airlines’ drug and alcohol testing program before, but would not say how recently.   Read the entire story here.
  • Detroit police on Sunday found the body of a baby girl in a dumpster after the newborn’s mother went to the emergency room bleeding and complaining of stomach pain.  WDIV reported that medical staff at the hospital transferred the 39-year-old woman to the intensive care unit, where they discovered that she’d recently given birth. She did not have a newborn with her, and neither did her husband, who drove her to the hospital.  >> Read more trending stories Officers who went to the couple’s home on Detroit’s east side found the baby’s body in a trash bin behind the house, the news station reported.  The woman’s husband told police he did not know she’d given birth.  MLive.com reported Tuesday morning that the woman remained on a breathing tube in the hospital’s ICU, so investigators had not yet been able to interview her. An autopsy was done Monday on the infant’s body, but the cause of death has not been made public.  The case remains under investigation. 

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