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    Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials working closely with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt's stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA's deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails. 'If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent,' Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency's science standards. Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science. The emails underscore how Pruitt and senior agency officials have sought to surround themselves with people who share their vision of curbing environmental regulation and enforcement, leading to complaints from environmentalists that he is ignoring the conclusions of the majority of scientists in and out of his agency especially when it comes to climate-changing carbon emissions. They were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued to enforce a Freedom of Information request and provided them to The Associated Press. The EPA maintains close working relationships with a broad range of public and private groups, and Heartland is just one of many the agency engages with 'to ensure the public is informed,' said EPA spokesman Lincoln Ferguson. 'It demonstrates the agency's dedication to advancing President Trump's agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory certainty,' he said. The public hearing referred to in the May 2017 email ultimately was canceled when the EPA official who runs it fell ill, the EPA said. But Bast contended in an email sent to EPA staffers and others that the official called off the hearing after learning that climate-change 'skeptics planned to attend.' The Heartland Institute calls itself a leading free-market think-tank. It rejects decades of science saying fossil-fuel emissions are altering the climate and says on its website that curbing use of petroleum and coal to fight climate change would 'squander one of America's greatest comparative advantages among the world's nations.' 'Of course The Heartland Institute has been working with EPA on policy and personnel decisions,' Tim Huelskamp, a former Kansas Republican congressman who now leads the group, said in a statement to the AP. 'They recognized us as the pre-eminent organization opposing the radical climate alarmism agenda and instead promoting sound science and policy,' Huelskamp wrote. He said Heartland would continue to help Pruitt and his staff. Ferguson said Pruitt and his top officials have also met with groups known for their campaigns against climate-changing emissions and pollutants from fossil fuels, including the Moms Clean Air Force, the American Lung Association, and others. But Ben Levitan of the Environmental Defense Fund said mainstream climate-change groups have received nothing like the outreach and invitations that Heartland and other hard-right groups have been getting. Certainly, 'in some ways this is normal and in the course of business that ebbs and flows with the ideology of the administration in power,' said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a non-profit promoting ethical government and bipartisan political reform. Heartland is not registered as a lobbying group. Spokesman Jim Lakely said the group has logged its contacts with EPA and that they fall below the level required for disclosing as lobbying. An email last February shows Bast forwarded to followers an email with the line 'From the White House,' rallying activists to public hearings the EPA was then holding around the country on repealing an Obama-era power plan meant to curb fossil-fuel emissions. The email is signed by a Pruitt political appointee and gives the name of another EPA official for activists to call. It's not clear from the email, however, who initiated the attempt to rally conservatives for the public hearing. Konkus was a Republican political consultant when Pruitt named him to the agency. His duties include reviewing awards of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants. The Washington Post reported in September that Konkus had been scrutinizing grant applications for mentions of climate change, which he reportedly calls 'the double C-word.' Emails show he and former EPA spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, repeatedly reached out to Heartland to talk over critical coverage by the Post. Lakely, the Heartland spokesman, responds he's shared the article with colleagues, 'asking them to jump to your aide (sic) and defend this position.' Konkus also contacted Heartland and other conservative groups asking for what he calls 'echo' amplifying word of Pruitt's regulation-cutting efforts, according to the emails. And an email from Bast, shared with EPA staffers and others, shows the then-Heartland president celebrating news that a reporter, Justin Gillis, was leaving The New York Times. 'Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead . Still waiting for Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin at the WaPo and Seth Borenstein at AP to flame out,' Bast writes. Spokespeople for the AP, The Washington Post and The New York Times declined comment.
  • President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' saying that 'maybe you shouldn't be in the country' if you don't stand for the anthem. Trump spoke to 'Fox & Friends' in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams. 'I think that's good,' Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. 'I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.' Trump told confidants Wednesday that he was thrilled with the NFL's new policy, believing it vindicated his move last fall to call out the players who kneeled while suggesting that he planned to call attention to it again when the season starts in September, just months before the midterm elections, according to a person familiar with the president's conversations but not authorized to discuss them privately. Trump first seized upon the issue last September when called on team owners to fire players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead by kneeling during the national anthem. During a September rally, he referred to an NFL player making a gesture during 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as a 'son of a bitch' who should be fired. The president's comments spurred a national conversation about patriotism and the nation's symbols and the use of peaceful protest. Trump, meanwhile, told Republican allies that he thought the culture war issue was good for his base even as he received some criticism for seemingly being more focused on the anthem flap last fall than the government's response to a deadly hurricane in Puerto Rico. Trump said in the Fox interview that he thought 'the people' pushed for the new policy. 'I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward,' Trump said. He added: 'you know, that's something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they did the right thing.' ___ Follow Lucey on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@catherine_lucey and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
  • She's a Yale-educated attorney and a romance novelist who served a decade in the Georgia Legislature. Now Stacey Abrams has gained a shot at becoming the first black woman elected governor in U.S. history. Abrams, 44, easily won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary, and strong turnout among Democrats has fueled hopes she can take back the governor's mansion in November in a state where Republicans hold every statewide office from U.S. senator to insurance commissioner. 'We are writing the next chapter of Georgia's future, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired,' Abrams declared after defeating fellow Democrat and former legislative colleague Stacey Evans. Democrats see a potential window for victory in the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, but experts say it won't happen without a hard fight. 'As long as Republican turnout doesn't drop off dramatically, the advantage is still in their court,' said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. Republicans won't have their nominee until a July 24 runoff between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp — two white men who were the top vote-getters in a crowded five-candidate GOP primary Tuesday in which contenders focused on the sanctity of gun rights and talked tough on immigration. Regardless of who emerges as the Republican nominee in nine weeks, Abrams faces a tough political road in what remains a deep red state. Georgia hasn't elected a Democrat governor since 1998. And no Democrat seeking that office in the past 20 years, including former President Jimmy Carter's grandson in 2014, has gotten more than 46 percent of the vote. Abrams is betting she can succeed by abandoning the political playbook of previous Democratic nominees, who ran centrist campaigns aimed at luring back older white voters who had come to favor Republicans. She is instead hoping to appeal to young voters and nonwhites who have been less likely to participate in elections. That strategy seemed to work for Abrams in the primary. She won 76 percent of the Democratic vote to trounce Evans, a white candidate who ran a more traditional campaign. 'Evans was running a professional campaign, she was up on TV, and she got her clock cleaned,' said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. 'And I suspect that's because Abrams' game plan came through for her.' There might be another glimmer of hope for Georgia Democrats in the primary results Tuesday. Democratic voters accounted for 47 percent of the 1.1 million ballots cast in the gubernatorial primaries. Republicans outstripped them by more than 53,400 votes. But the numbers show a big leap for the Democrats, whose share of primary ballots in contests for governor hasn't exceeded 36 percent since 2010. 'Abrams may have two factors in her favor,' said William Hatcher, an Augusta University political science professor. 'First, she has excited the Democratic base. Second, if the Trump administration remains unpopular, it will make it more likely that suburban moderates turn to the Democrats.' Abrams is an underdog with a compelling backstory. Raised by poor parents alongside five siblings in Mississippi, she went on to attend Yale Law School. She worked as a tax attorney and deputy city attorney for Atlanta, then started her own legal consulting firm. On the side, using the pen name Selena Montgomery, she published several romance novels with titles such as 'Hidden Sins' and 'Secrets and Lies.' Abrams won election to the Georgia House in 2006 and rose to become the first black woman to serve as the chamber's Democratic leader. She resigned her seat last summer to focus on the gubernatorial campaign. Heading into the primary, she received a last-minute recorded phone message from Hillary Clinton for use in calling voters. She was also endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as California Sen. Kamala Harris, considered a potential 2020 White House contender. Her campaign also drew celebrity support from Tracee Ellis Ross, star of ABC's 'Black-ish,' and Uzo Aduba of Netflix's 'Orange Is the New Black.' On the downside, Abrams' 10-year political tenure generated ethics complaints and exposed personal financial debt that could haunt her in the fall campaign. Abrams has denied allegations that she reimbursed herself thousands of dollars from campaign accounts without properly recording the transactions and that she used campaign staff to promote sales of her autobiography, 'Minority Leader.' Earlier this year, her financial disclosure forms showed more than $220,000 in personal debt, including $50,000 owed to the IRS. Abrams said she is on a payment plan to settler her overdue taxes. She blamed the rest on credit card debt accumulated to support herself during law school and additional financial burdens she took on to help support her aging parents. 'Yes, we all still make money mistakes,' Abrams wrote in an April commentary piece published by Fortune, 'but they don't have to be fatal to our dreams.' Republicans are already arguing the public can't trust Abrams. 'Not only has Abrams spent years promoting reckless tax-and-spend policies that would take Georgia backwards, but her large amount of alarming ethical issues continue to raise serious questions about her record,' Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson said in a statement after Abrams' primary victory. On the Republican side, Georgia voters can expect a bruising battle between Cagle and Kemp. Cagle in February led the Legislature in killing a tax break on jet fuel to punish Delta Air Lines for ending a discount program for members of the National Rifle Association. The NRA endorsed Cagle soon after. Kemp stood out with a campaign ad in which he said he has a big truck 'just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself.' ___ Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press writer Errin Haines Whack contributed to this report. ___ Sign up for 'Politics in Focus,' a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP's best political reporting from across the United States leading up to the 2018 midterm elections: http://apne.ws/3Gzcraw
  • A reporter for The Associated Press was grabbed by the shoulders and shoved out of an Environmental Protection Agency building by a security guard Tuesday for trying to cover a meeting on water contaminants in which some reporters were welcomed and others were not. An aide to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later called to apologize to AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer and said the incident is being looked into. Knickmeyer, who said she was not hurt, was later let into the meeting when the EPA reversed course and opened it to all reporters. Representatives from CNN and E&E News, which covers energy and environment issues, were also initially barred from the meeting. Even for an administration with a contentious relationship with the press and a president who has put the phrase 'fake news' into the lexicon, Tuesday's events were unusual. Pruitt had convened what he called a national summit on dangerous chemicals that have been found in some water systems. Some 200 people attended, including representatives of states, tribes and the chemical industry and environmentalists. Pruitt's remarks at the meeting were listed on his public schedule and described as being open to the press on a federal daybook of events. Knickmeyer said she called Monday about the event and was told by EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox that it was invitation-only and there was no room for her. She said she showed up anyway, and was told by a security guard that she couldn't enter. She said she asked to speak to a representative from the press office, was refused and told to get out. Photos of the event showed several empty seats. After security told her that 'we can make you get out,' Knickmeyer said she took out her phone to record what was happening. Some of the security guards reached for it, and a woman grabbed her shoulders from behind and pushed her about five feet out the door. Wilcox issued a statement late Tuesday saying Knickmeyer 'pushed through the security entrance.' After the AP objected to the characterization, the spokesman issued a second statement removing that account and instead saying Knickmeyer 'showed up at EPA but refused to leave the building after being asked to do so.' 'When we were made aware of the incident, we displaced stakeholders to the overflow room who flew to Washington for this meeting so that every member of the press could have a seat,' Wilcox said. Reporters from other organizations, including Politico, were allowed in. Inside the event, there were seats reserved for Politico, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, the Daily Caller, the Hill, MLive and NJ Advance Media. Although Knickmeyer has only recently begun covering the embattled Pruitt and the EPA, the EPA had publicly criticized AP reporter Michael Biesecker for a story he co-wrote noting that the AP had surveyed toxic waste sites in the Houston area flooded by Hurricane Harvey when the EPA had said these sites were inaccessible. The EPA called it 'yellow journalism'; the AP objected at the time and said it stood by the reporting. CNN, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, said the EPA had not responded to its queries Monday about the meeting. Reporter Rene Marsh, a producer and a photographer showed up to cover the meeting anyway, and when the photographer attempted to enter, Wilcox came to the entrance and provided security with a list of reporters who were allowed. CNN was asked to leave. Marsh later tried to enter through a different entrance and was turned away. Similarly, reporter Corbin Hiar of E&E News was denied entrance for the morning session. News organizations decried the ban. 'The Environmental Protection Agency's selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today's meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public's right to know about what is happening inside their government,' said AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee. CNN said in a statement that 'we understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too.' Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., called on Pruitt to apologize. 'This intimidation of journalists seeking to cover a federal official presiding over important policy-making is un-American and unacceptable,' He said After the story began spreading, Knickmeyer said she received a call from Lincoln Ferguson, an adviser to Pruitt. He apologized for how she was manhandled and said officials were looking into it. He invited her and other reporters back for the summit's afternoon session. Ironically, the EPA had initially planned to allow reporters in only for Pruitt's remarks, yet after the access issue was raised, later sessions were opened to the press. CNN and E&E News attended the afternoon session, too. Lauren Easton, spokeswoman for the AP, said the news organization was pleased that the EPA had reconsidered its position. Asked about the incident, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration was looking into the incident. She pushed back on a question about whether there are any instances where the White House believed it was appropriate to physically handle a reporter. 'I'm not going to weigh in to random hypotheticals that may or may not exist,' she said. 'I don't know any information about this specific incident. You're asking me to speak to a blanket possibility, which I'm not going to do.
  • President Donald Trump wants New York's highest court to delay a defamation suit filed by a former 'Apprentice' contestant who accused him of unwanted groping and kissing. Trump's lawyers filed notice late Monday that they're asking the state Court of Appeals to freeze Summer Zervos' suit while a lower appellate court considers Trump's request to dismiss it or postpone it until after his presidency. The president has denied Zervos' claims, and his lawyers formally did so in a filing late Tuesday. They also argue that he can't be sued in a state court while he's president. Zervos' lawyer, Mariann Wang, said she looked forward 'to proving that his denials are baseless.' She also noted that Trump has lost bids so far to delay the case. 'And for good reason,' Wang added in a statement. 'No one is above the law.' Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on Trump's former reality show, 'The Apprentice.' She says he made unwelcome advances when she sought career advice in 2007. Zervos was among more than a dozen women who came forward late in the 2016 presidential race to say Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted them. Trump denied all the claims, saying they were '100 percent fabricated' and 'totally false' and his accusers were 'liars.' He specifically contested Zervos' allegations in a statement and retweeted a message that included her photo and described her claims as a 'hoax.' Zervos' suit argues Trump defamed her by calling her a liar. She says his words hurt her reputation, harmed her business and led to threats against her. She's seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages. Trump's attorneys have said his remarks were 'non-defamatory opinions' protected by the First Amendment. In Tuesday's filing, they also said his statements were true. A Manhattan judge ruled in March that the case could go forward. Last week, a mid-level appeals court turned down Trump's bid to halt information-gathering in the case while appeals judges weigh his argument that a private citizen can't sue a sitting president in a state court. Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz said last week there was 'no valid reason' to reject the request. Zervos' lawyers have issued subpoenas seeking a range of information about Trump's behavior toward women, including any Trump campaign documents concerning any woman who accused him of inappropriate touching and any unaired 'Apprentice' footage that might feature Trump discussing female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.
  • The Latest on a hearing with EPA chief Scott Pruitt on a widespread contaminant in drinking water (all times local): 9:55 a.m. The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants. The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday's Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred. Pruitt told about 200 people at the meeting that dealing with the contaminants is a 'national priority.' Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building. ___ 9:25 a.m. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says dealing with a widespread contaminant in drinking water is a 'national priority.' Pruitt spoke Tuesday as he opened a hearing on the contaminants, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. The chemicals were used in items like nonstick coating and firefighting foam and have contaminated some water systems nationwide. The compounds are linked to developmental defects and other health problems. Pruitt has faced criticism in recent weeks over emails showing the EPA sought to intervene in a critical study on the contaminants. Convening Tuesday's session, Pruitt is pledging to work on establishing a maximum allowable level for the chemicals in drinking water. Representatives of states, tribes, the chemical industry, environmental groups and others are attending the session.
  • Barack and Michelle Obama are getting into the television business with Monday's announcement that they had signed a multi-year deal with Netflix. The former president and first lady have formed their own production company, Higher Ground Productions, for the material. In announcing a deal that had been rumored since March, Netflix offered no specifics on what shows they would make. Netflix said the Obamas would make 'a diverse mix of content,' potentially including scripted and unscripted series, documentaries or features. 'We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the wider world,' Barack Obama said in Netflix's announcement. The Obamas can be expected to participate in some of the programming onscreen, said a person familiar with the deal, not authorized to talk publicly about it, on condition of anonymity. The programming itself is not expected to be partisan in nature; a president who often derided the way things were covered on cable news won't be joining in. The type of people that Obama — like other presidents — brought forward as guests at his State of the Union addresses would likely provide fodder for the kinds of stories they want to tell. 'Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,' Michelle Obama said. No content from the deal is expected to be available until at least 2019, said the person familiar with the deal. The former president appeared in January on David Letterman's Netflix talk show, 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.' Obama is said to be friendly with Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, and discussions for other programming were already under way. 'We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities,' Sarandos said. Netflix has 125 million subscribers worldwide. The company has always been reluctant to discuss how many people watch its programming, but it clearly dominates the growing market for streaming services. Roughly 10 percent of television viewing now is through these services, the Nielsen company said. Forty-nine percent of streaming being viewed now comes through Netflix, and no other service comes close, Nielsen said.
  • The Associated Press on Monday announced that award-winning journalist Susannah George will join its Washington bureau to cover U.S. intelligence agencies and national security. The appointment was announced by Julie Pace, AP's Washington bureau chief. 'Susannah is a dogged reporter with a track record of producing standout journalism on complex issues,' Pace said. 'In her new role as an intelligence reporter, she will be an integral part of our Washington-based national security team.' George, 33, joined the AP in 2015 and has led coverage from the Baghdad bureau. She was a member of the team of journalists who won the Overseas Press Club awards this year for coverage of the Islamic State and the fight for Mosul. Her Mosul coverage was also part of a larger body of work named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year. George is also a 2018 Livingston Award finalist for international reporting. George has spent much of her career overseas, covering conflict in Gaza, the NATO bombing campaign in Libya and uprisings in Egypt. She began her career in the U.S. as a producer for National Public Radio, covering elections, natural disasters and gun violence. A native of Connecticut, George grew up in the Middle East between Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem.
  • Melania Trump returned to the White House in 'high spirits' on Saturday following a weeklong hospitalization for kidney treatment, a lengthy stay that raised questions about whether the first lady's condition may have been more complicated than first revealed. President Donald Trump heralded her homecoming with a tweet that referred to her as 'Melanie' instead of 'Melania.' 'Great to have our incredible First Lady back home in the White House. Melanie is feeling and doing really well. Thank you for all of your prayers and best wishes!' Trump wrote before quickly superseding that tweet with another that spelled his wife's name correctly. Mrs. Trump's quiet return to the White House, her husband and their 12-year-old son, after five days at a nearby U.S. military hospital resolved a brewing mystery about when she would eventually be released. What remain are questions about the state of her health. Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, has declined to release additional details, citing Mrs. Trump's right to privacy. 'The First Lady returned home to the White House this morning,' Grisham said in an emailed statement. 'She is resting comfortably and remains in high spirits. Our office has received thousands of calls and emails wishing Mrs. Trump well, and we thank everyone who has taken the time to reach out.' First ladies are under no obligation to make their medical histories public. She had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington since Monday, when she had an embolization procedure to treat an unspecified kidney condition the White House described as benign. Word of the hospitalization came as a surprise as there was no indication during her public appearances in recent weeks, including during a state visit by France's president, that Mrs. Trump had been ailing. One week before the procedure, a beaming Mrs. Trump, 48, presided over a splashy announcement ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to introduce her 'Be Best' public awareness campaign to help teach kindness to children. Grisham said Monday that the procedure was 'successful,' there were no complications and that Mrs. Trump would probably remain hospitalized for 'the duration of the week.' The president then tweeted Tuesday that his wife would be released in '2 or 3' days, but Thursday and Friday passed without word from the White House on her whereabouts. Trump had visited her during her first three days of hospitalization. But he did not visit Thursday or Friday, leading some to wonder whether that meant the first lady had been discharged. The first lady said Wednesday on Twitter that she was 'feeling great' and looking forward to going home, but gave no indication of when that might happen. On Friday, she tweeted about the deadly school shooting at a Houston-area high school but did not update her followers on her medical situation. Urologists with no personal knowledge of Mrs. Trump's condition said the most likely explanation for the procedure is a kind of noncancerous kidney tumor called an angiomyolipoma. They're not common but tend to occur in middle-aged women and can cause problematic bleeding if they become large enough, said Dr. Keith Kowalczyk of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Doctors often treat the condition by cutting off the blood supply so the growth shrinks, added Dr. Lambros Stamatakis of MedStar Washington Hospital Center. That is done with an embolization, meaning a catheter is snaked into the blood vessels of the kidney to find the right one to block. Most of the time, these tumors are found when people undergo medical scans for another reason, but sometimes people have pain or other symptoms, Kowalczyk said. Many times, embolization patients go home the same day or the next. Grisham on Saturday characterized speculation about the first lady as 'uninformed,' adding that every patient is different. 'Mrs. Trump has a medical team that is comfortable with her care, which is all that matters,' she said. 'Her recovery and privacy are paramount and I will have no further comment beyond this.' The question of what level of accountability should be expected of first ladies is difficult because they are private citizens, yet public figures who draw keen interest from the public, have taxpayer-supported staff and sometimes involve themselves in politics and policy. Myra Gutin, a Rider University professor who studies presidents' wives, recalled the backlash Rosalynn Carter suffered for attending Cabinet meetings; she explained that she just wanted to get things right because she was so often out and about representing President Jimmy Carter. The White House has a mixed record on disclosing information about the ailments of first ladies. Nancy Reagan revealed in 1987 that she had breast cancer and had her left breast surgically removed. But nearly two decades later, the White House found itself on the defensive for its after-the-fact disclosure that Laura Bush had skin cancer removed from her right shin in November 2006. Mrs. Bush had decided it was a private matter, but it nonetheless came to light after she was seen wearing a bandage below her right knee. The following year, the White House proactively disclosed that Mrs. Bush would have surgery to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck. The problem kept her from accompanying President George W. Bush on a trip to Australia. Sheila Tate, a press secretary to Mrs. Reagan, said the first lady felt it was appropriate to reveal her breast cancer diagnosis. Such disclosures by a first lady aren't 'absolutely required, by any means,' Tate said. 'Melania is entitled to her privacy, if that's what she wants.' ___ AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • The White House is joining in on the viral debate over whether people hear the names 'Laurel' or 'Yanny' in a much-shared audio clip. The White House on Thursday released a video featuring various members of the staff weighing in. Senior adviser Ivanka Trump says, 'So clearly Laurel.' Strategic-communications director Mercedes Schlapp says, 'Yanny's the winner, Laurel's the loser.' White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pokes fun at her endless willingness to spin and bend the truth for the president, saying, 'It's Laurel. But I could deflect and divert to Yanny if you need me to.' Vice President Mike Pence wants to know: 'Who's Yanny?' The video ends with President Donald Trump deadpanning, 'I hear covfefe' — a reference to a botched tweet he wrote last year that was never explained.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Students at Indiana’s Noblesville West Middle School are hailing a science teacher as a hero for his actions Friday, when a boy opened fire on classmates at the school. >> Read more trending news A teacher, identified by The Indianapolis Star as Jason Seaman, sprung into action after a student asked to use the bathroom Friday morning and returned to the classroom with a pair of handguns, police said. Seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker told The Associated Press that students were taking a test when the unidentified student walked into the classroom and opened fire. >> Noblesville, Indiana middle school shooting: 2 injured, student in custody “Our science teacher immediately ran at him, swatted a gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground,” seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker told The Associated Press. “If it weren’t for him, more of us would have been injured for sure.” The Star reported that Seaman was shot three times and underwent surgery Friday. An unidentified student was also injured, according to police. He released a written statement to media Friday evening:  “First of all, thank you to the first responders from Noblesville and Fishers for their immediate action and care. I want to let everyone know that I was injured (but) am doing great. To all the students, you are all wonderful and I thank you for your support. You are the reason I teach.” Jason Seaman’s brother, Jeremy Seaman, told the Star that he was not surprised by reports of his brother’s actions. “He’s not really ever been the person to run away,” Jeremy Seaman told the Star. “When the safety of the kids is at hand, it’s not surprising to me that he was going to do what he had to do.” Jason Seaman has been a teacher in Noblesville for four years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has also served as head football coach for seventh-graders for two years. Jeremy Seaman  told the Star that his brother is married with two young children. Jason Seaman played college football for Southern Illinois from 2007 to 2010, according to ESPN. The team's head coach, Nick Hill, said in a statement Friday that Jason Seaman 'was a great teammate (and) one of the team's hardest workers.'  'You could always trust him to do the right thing,' he said. Jason Seaman continued to recover Friday. Police continue to investigate the shooting.
  • A former NAACP official who made international headlines in 2015 when it was discovered she had posed for years as a black woman has been charged with fraud, accused of cheating the government out of $8,847 in public assistance.  Rachel Dolezal, who in 2016 changed her name to Nkechi A. Diallo, was charged Tuesday with first-degree theft by welfare fraud, second-degree perjury and false verification for public assistance, according to court documents obtained by KHQ-TV in Spokane, Washington. The victim in the case is listed as Washington state’s Department of Social and Health Services.  Dolezal resigned from her post as head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP in June 2015 after her white parents came forward and revealed her true lineage. She first applied for public assistance for her and her teenage son two months later, claiming that she no longer was able to find work, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.  Dolezal, who also worked as a professor of African-American studies, was first questioned about her ethnicity during an interview with KXLY in Spokane. Dolezal in that interview talked about alleged hate crimes she’d reported to police over the years, including nooses she said were hung at homes where she and her two sons lived.  About eight minutes into the raw interview footage, the reporter showed Dolezal a photo of a black man she said was her father, asking if the man was really her father.  “I don’t know what you’re implying,” Dolezal said.  “Are you African-American?” the interviewer asked.  “I don’t understand the question of -- I did tell you that yes, that’s my dad.” “Are your parents, are they white?” the reporter asked. Dolezal walked away from the interview.  Dolezal said in later interviews that she identifies as black, a claim that has brought the term “transracial” into the national conversation about race. She is the subject of a Netflix documentary, called “The Rachel Divide,” that premiered in April.  The court documents outlining the charges against Dolezal, who is now legally known as Diallo, allege that the DSHS’s Office of Fraud and Accountability learned in March 2017 from one of its criminal investigators that she had written and published a book. The investigator, Brad Borden, knew from previous news articles that Diallo had admitted to going on public assistance since her lies about her background had been uncovered.  Diallo told The Guardian for one of those news stories, published on Feb. 25, 2017, that she was jobless and had to resort to feeding her children through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.  “A friend helped her pay this month’s rent; next month she expects to be homeless,” the newspaper reported. “She has applied for more than 100 jobs, but no one will hire her, not even to stack supermarket shelves.” Borden found ample reason to doubt those claims, according to authorities.  “(Borden) conducted a review of Diallo’s DSHS records and found she had been reporting her only source of income was $300 per month in gifts from friends,” the DSHS’s investigative report stated. “He researched the publisher of Diallo’s book and found a typical contract would include payments of $10,000 to $20,000 as advances against later royalties.” Borden learned about the published book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World,” from Diallo’s LinkedIn profile, the investigative report said.  DSHS fraud investigators subpoenaed Diallo’s self-employment records in September, as well as her bank statements from 2015 to the present. The records showed that Diallo had failed to report all her income to the department, the report said. Investigators said her bank statements showed she deposited just under $84,000 into her account in the two years subpoenaed. Investigators found during their probe that aside from the income from her book, Diallo also failed to report her income from speaking engagements, soap making, doll making and the sale of artwork she created, the report said.  Diallo’s business license indicated she had registered businesses under the trade names Melanin Spectrum, Gimme Some Sugar, Living Spectrum Studios, Rachel Dolezal, Royal Soaps and Shine On, the investigative report said.  Read the entire report from DSHS investigators here. When Diallo was called in for an interview last month, she invoked her rights and refused to speak with investigators. The investigators ended the interview. The investigative report said that Diallo was informed multiple times of the reporting requirements to receive assistance, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution if she “willfully provided false information or failed to accurately report her circumstances.” Further details of the investigation indicate that, when applying online for assistance in August 2015, Diallo, who then still went by Rachel Dolezal, reported zero expected monthly income and said she and her son were living off $480 in child support. She also stated she had just $54 in her bank account at the time.  Her bank records show she actually had nearly $2,000 in her account on the day she signed the application, the report said.  A few days later, in a telephone interview with a welfare worker, Diallo claimed she was behind on her rent because of her lack of income, the report said. In that call, she was told to report by Sept. 10 if her gross monthly income exceeded the threshold of $1,726.  Bank statements show that, while Diallo was claiming little to no income, she deposited nearly $3,000 per month that September and October, the investigators said. In November, they said, she deposited more than $11,000.  In January 2016, she reported no income changes on her mid-certification review, the investigative report stated.  >> Read more trending news Diallo is accused of continuing the deception throughout 2016, bringing in up to $6,600 each month despite requesting food assistance for herself and her two sons, the report said. She reported no cash or money in her bank accounts on her June 2016 eligibility review, despite having more than $3,000 in her checking account at the time, investigators said.  According to the report, she also failed to report receiving unemployment benefits, citing child support as her sole source of income.  In January 2017, around the time of her name change, Diallo’s mid-certification review indicated no change in her income level, the investigative report said. At that time, she was asked about her rent and utility costs, which the report said she listed as $1,094.  She was asked how she paid those expenses with just $480 in child support each month.  “Barely! With help from friends and gifts,” Diallo responded, according to the report.  She told The Guardian the following month that she and her children were near homelessness, though her bank records showed that she deposited about $3,000 in January and February.  Investigators allege that Diallo continued the deception about her income through March 2017, when Borden requested the investigation, and beyond. She reported a change of circumstance in November but claimed it was for a one-time job for which she earned $20,000 for speaking and voice-overs, investigators said.  Diallo was largely criticized on social media following the news of the pending charges. Twitter was also abuzz with jokes.   If convicted, Diallo faces 15 years in prison on the charges, KHQ-TV reported. She will be arraigned June 6 in Spokane County Superior Court.  
  • Amid litigation and blame being thrown from both sides, the City of Jacksonville has taken new action against the Jacksonville Landing.  WOKV has obtained a letter from the Office of General Counsel to Jacksonville Landing Investments, through Sleiman Enterprises, notifying the owner of the Downtown Riverfront mall that the City would be terminating the lease agreement.  The letter builds on a prior notice from the City, which was sent in October, saying JLI was in breach of the lease agreement. The complain said the Landing was not operating as a “first class retail facility”, and listed complaints from vacant spaces to disrepair. The City says JLI has failed to “cure its breach”, and as such, the City is terminating the lease.  “The City demands that JLI provide it with immediate access to, and possession of, the Leased Property and all Building Improvements and other fixtures thereon. Additionally, the City requests that JLI provide copies of all sub-leases currently in effect for the Property,” says the OGC letter, dated today.  The City owns the land, but leases it to Sleiman Enterprises, which owns and operates the building itself. JLI took over a prior lease agreement in 2003.  Following the October claim, JLI sued the City in November, with claims including that the City has not delivered on adequate parking or security.  The parties are involved in other legal disputes, including one from 2015 that relates to the purchase of a parcel and another from early this year over docks that were damaged in Hurricane Matthew.  A Jacksonville Landing spokesperson tells WOKV they did receive the letter from the City. They are working on a response, and this story will be updated as that’s available.
  • Police took a middle school student into custody Friday morning on suspicion of firing shots at Indiana’s Noblesville West Middle School, leaving at least two people injured. >> Read more trending news Update 7:44 p.m. EDT: Jason Seaman, the teacher injured in the shooting, released a statement Friday evening: “First of all, thank you to the first responders from Noblesville and Fishers for their immediate action and care. I want to let everyone know that I was injured (but) am doing great. To all the students, you are all wonderful and I thank you for your support. You are the reason I teach.” Update 2:50 p.m. EDT: The Indianapolis Star identified the teacher injured in Friday’s shooting at Noblesville West Middle School as Jason Seaman. The newspaper reported he was shot three times while knocking the gun out of the hands of a middle school student who fired shots at the school. Jason Seaman’s brother, Jeremy Seaman, told the newspaper that he was not surprised by reports of his brother’s actions. Students have told several news stations that his quick thinking saved an untold number of lives. “He’s not really ever been the person to run away,” Jeremy Seaman told the Star. “When the safety of the kids is at hand, it’s not surprising to me that he was going to do what he had to do.” Jeremy Seaman told the Star that his brother was undergoing surgery Friday. Update 2:39 p.m. EDT: Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said at a news conference Friday afternoon that the student who opened fire at Noblesville West Middle School earlier in the day asked to be excused from class before returning with a pair of handguns.  Jowitt said the student was quickly taken into custody. Update 2 p.m. EDT: A Noblesville West Middle School student told WXIN that a science teacher sprang into action Friday after a student opened fire at the school, knocking the gun from the shooter’s hand and likely saving lives. The seventh-grade girl, who was not identified, told the news station that “this science teacher bravely swatted that gun away from the gunman’s hands, saving everyone else in that room.” Another seventh-grader, Ethan Stonebraker, told The Associated Press that the shooter walked into his science class while students were taking a test. 'Our science teacher immediately ran at him, swatted a gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground,' Stonebraker said. 'If it weren't for him, more of us would have been injured for sure.' It was not immediately clear if the teacher was the same one injured in Friday morning’s shooting.  Police said a juvenile and an adult teacher were injured when an unidentified male student opened fire at the school around 9 a.m. Another student also suffered an ankle fracture, according to officials with Riverview Health. Update 11:43 a.m. EDT: Vice President Mike Pence thanked law enforcement officers and shared condolences after a shooting at a middle school in his home state, Indiana. “Karen and I are praying for the victims of the terrible shooting in Indiana,” Pence wrote on Twitter Friday, referring to his wife, Karen Pence. “To everyone in the Noblesville community -- you are in our hearts and in our prayers.” Update 11:28 a.m. EDT: Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt confirmed that a teacher and a juvenile were injured Friday morning in a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School. Police did not identify either of the victims. They were taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital, respectively, Jowitt said. Officials with Riverview Health said earlier Friday that a second student was treated for an ankle fracture after the shooting. Authorities had a suspect, identified as a male student, in custody Friday morning. Jowitt said Noblesville West Middle School had been cleared by 11:30 a.m. However, he added that authorities also received reports of a threat made at Noblesville High School. Police are investigating the report. Update 11:18 a.m. EDT: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he and other officials are monitoring the situation in Noblesville after at least two people were injured in a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday. Authorities are expected to provide additional details about Friday’s shooting in a news conference later in the day. Update 10:55 a.m. EDT: Chad Lancaster, whose eighth-grade daughter and sixth-grade son attend Noblesville West Middle School, told the Indianapolis Star that his daughter called her mother, his ex-wife, while hiding under a desk amid reports of an active shooter on campus. He told the newspaper he has been unable to get in touch with his son. “This is surreal,' Lancaster told the Star. 'This happens in high school, not here.' Officials with Riverview Health said one of the two people injured in Friday morning's shooting was taken to the hospital and transfered to Riley Hospital in stable condition. A second person, a student, was being treated for an ankle fracture. Officials told the Star earlier Friday that an adult was also injured in the shooting. A suspect, who has not been identified, was in custody after the shooting. Update 10:40 a.m. EDT: Indiana University Health officials told the Indianapolis Star that an adult and a teenager were injured in Friday’s shooting at Noblesville West Middle School. The two have not been identified. Indiana State Police said earlier Friday that they were taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital for treatment of their injuries and that their families had been notified. Update 10:20 a.m. EDT: Indiana State Police confirmed two people were taken to a hospital after authorities responded Friday morning to reports of an active shooter at Noblesville West Middle School. Officials said a suspect was in custody after the shooting. Authorities were expected to provide additional details at a news conference later Friday. Original report: Authorities confirmed around 9:40 a.m. that police had a suspect in custody after responding to a report of an active shooter situation at the middle school. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start to summer-- and the real start to summer just around the corner-- the Florida Department of Children and Families is sharing safety tips to keep your children safe. John Harrell with DCF in the Northeast Florida region says drowning is a serious and tragic problem in our state.  'Florida loses more children under the age of 5 to drowning, than any other state in the nation,' says Harrell. He adds that 80% of children that die from drowning are 3-years-old and under.  But he says DCF believes drowning deaths can be prevented, though, parents need to help and take responsibility.  Harrell says one of the most important things is supervision.  'At least one person keeping a close eye on the children. And that means putting the cellphones away, avoiding any long and detailed conversations, making sure they're seeing on the children, keeping eyes on them, and are able to help quickly if the children get into trouble,' says Harrell.  DCF also strongly asks parents to consider getting children swimming lessons, as early as the age of 1.  Even with lessons, Harrell says it's important to make sure your children know not to get into water of any kind, without supervision.  When it comes to pool owners, Harrell says it's important to have gates and locks around your pool, as children are often curious.  DCF also encourages people to learn CPR, in case the skill is ever needed.  In 2017, there were more than 80 child drownings in Florida. Just this week in Jacksonville, a near drowning left a child in critical condition in Arlington. 

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