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    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel submitted his resignation Tuesday amid pressure on his government after the biggest coalition party quit over Michel's support for a United Nations compact on international migration. 'I am taking the decision to offer my resignation. I am now going to see the king' to inform him,' Michel told Belgian lawmakers. Before the prime minister gave his notice, lawmakers had been demanding he submit his new minority government to a confidence vote. But Michel refused, and a confrontation this week seemed likely. Michel tried to convince the Chamber of Representatives of the reshaped government's plans and said he would be ready to work with the opposition, but his overtures were rejected. His 2019 budget was among the sensitive topics up for debate. Some in the assembly pushed for an election to be held before the regularly scheduled one in May. Michel again refused, saying it would only lead to 'stagnation for the whole of 2019.' After a short break for reflection, he announced he was resigning instead. As lawmakers applauded, he picked up his briefcase, shook the hands of a number of government ministers, and left. Michel made no comment to reporters upon entering and leaving Belgian King Philippe's residence, the Palace of Laeken in Brussels. The king holds a largely symbolic role in Belgium but becomes a pivotal figure after inconclusive elections or disputes like the current one require the formation of new governments. In a tweet, the Royal Palace said Philippe had received Michel and was 'withholding his decision' about what steps to take next. Belgian media said the king would meet party leaders Wednesday before deciding whether to accept the resignation the prime minister tendered on behalf of himself and his government. Michel could be invited to lead a caretaker government until an election can be held. It's the first time the king has faced such a crisis. He ascended to the throne in 2013 after his father, King Albert II, abdicated for health reasons. The right-wing N-VA party quit the government after Michel sought parliamentary approval to support the U.N. compact against its wishes, branding his minority government 'the Marrakech coalition,' after the city where the migration treaty was signed just over a week ago. The accord is non-binding, but the N-VA said it still went too far and would give even migrants who were in Belgium without authorization many additional rights. The party launched an in-your-face social media campaign against the compact, featuring pictures of Muslim women with their faces covered and claiming that the accord focused on allowing migrants to retain the cultural practices of their homelands. But it quickly withdrew the materials after the campaign received widespread criticism. A number of governments refused to sign the U.N. Global Compact Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. They included the United States, but also a group of European Union countries, among them Austria which holds the EU's rotating presidency until Dec. 31.
  • Macedonian lawmakers have approved a law offering amnesty to some suspected perpetrators of a violent storming of parliament last year, seeking to boost reconciliation in a deeply polarized society. All 95 lawmakers present in the 120-seat parliament Tuesday backed a draft amnesty law over the April 2017 incident. But the amnesty won't cover organizers of the intrusion and protesters who committed physical violence. According to the new law, people suspected of participating in the melee, who are on trial before Skopje's criminal court, can now file requests for amnesty. A total of 33 people — including conservative opposition lawmakers and supporters — are on trial over the incident, when an angry mob stormed parliament to block the election of a new speaker. More than 100 people, including lawmakers, were injured.
  • While flaming barricades, shattered glass and skirmishes have occupied Paris during six weeks of anti-government protests, English-speaking observers have fallen back on a favorite pastime: reflecting on France's revolutions. Some journalists detect hints of Russian influence in the fuel tax-driven rallies that appeared mid-November. Far-right American commentators portray the unrest as a rebuke of French President Emmanuel Macron's defense of the global treaty hammered out in Paris that seeks to limit global warming. For some of the most strident American critics , the protests vindicate President Donald Trump's 'America First' credo. 'The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris,' Trump crowed last week, going on to make the evidence-free assertion that 'yellow vest' protesters were chanting 'We Want Trump!' Some of those in the best position to know — a French political scientist who has studied social unrest, a researcher who's helped carry out hundreds of interviews with yellow vest demonstrators and an academic who has crunched 2 million protest-related tweets — say evidence for such assertions ranges from the arguable to the nonexistent. 'I reject these grand explanations,' University of Burgundy political science professor Dominique Andolfatto said. 'I think it's a reaction of the gradual buildup of practical measures.' Amid the noise, a team of more than 70 academics and students gave themselves an ambitious sociological challenge: getting as complete an idea of who the yellow vests are and what they want. The group has interviewed hundreds so far across France, according to the Center for National Scientific Research's Magali Della Sudda, one of three researchers who launched the project at the Emile Durkheim Center at Sciences Po Bordeaux. In an interim report published in Le Monde newspaper last week, the research team said the protesters generally were of modest financial means and named the cost of living and higher taxes as their top two concerns. Della Sudda said she had yet to encounter protesters voicing the wacky allegations — about bogus terror attacks or secret plans to flood France with migrants, for example — that have spread across Facebook in the wake of the yellow vest rallies. 'I've not seen any trace of these kinds of conspiracy theories,' she said. Ditto the anxiety over supposed Kremlin interference, a roaming target of blame for political ills since Russian hackers and trolls were caught interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The French arm of Russia Today has covered the protests aggressively, but gets nowhere near as many eyes as more traditional French media outlets. The website of the Moscow-funded broadcaster remains the 17th most-cited in yellow vest-related discussions on Twitter, according to a recent report drawing on 2.3 million tweets sent between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4. Nikos Smyrnaios, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Toulouse who analyzed the tweets, said holding foreign propaganda responsible for France's turmoil treats the French public like a passive receptacle 'without critical thought, isolated in its digital bubble, and vulnerable to whatever Russian bot or unfounded conspiracy theory.' Some have read the protests as a rejection of Macron's focus on climate change. In an editorial published last month, The Wall Street Journal suggested that Macron needed to abandon his 'expensive green piety' and focus on 'what voters elected him to do — create jobs and make the French economy great again.' In fact, the French — and the yellow vests — still largely cherish green issues. That includes many who crossed over to join marchers at a pro-environment demonstration in Paris on Dec. 8. 'It's not a rejection of ecology,' Fabrice Ravebet, 40, who is unemployed and participated in the yellow vest protests. What bothered him was the 'financial injustice' of forcing poorer drivers to pony up more to keep older cars running while the wealthy weren't taxed on the jet fuel used to fly them off on vacation. English speakers aren't alone in struggling to understand the protesters' motives; French journalists, politicians and union leaders have also wrestled over the origins — and the ultimate direction — of the self-organized movement. Some politicians and commentators have voiced fear that political extremists on the left and right could draw energy and recruits from the ranks of demonstrators. That could yet happen, although many protesters see their movement as nonpartisan. 'It's not a left and right thing,' said Max Werle, 56, a fluorescent vest-clad office administrator who was among the protesters on Paris' Champs Elysees on Saturday. Next to him, 53-year-old Lionel Toussaint insisted the yellow vests would resist moves by politicians of any stripe to harness the movement for their own ends. 'We're apolitical,' he said. Both men laughed off the idea that the yellow vests were big Trump fans. If anything, they said, Macron reminded them too much of the U.S. president, who is seen by many in France as a megalomaniac bent on serving the wealthiest sliver of Americans at the expense of everyone else. 'Trump and Macron are the same,' Toussaint said. The idea that the French would take to the streets saying 'We want Trump' was totally implausible in any case, said Ravebet. 'Have you ever heard a Frenchman protesting in English?' he said. ___ Online: Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://raphaelsatter.com
  • Zimbabwean soldiers and police used 'unjustified and disproportionate' force to kill 6 people during election protests in August, according to an official report released Tuesday. The report was widely seen as a test of whether the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa would disown the kind of harsh action by security forces that was associated with the long rule of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe. The sharp criticism of the military and police in the commission of inquiry report reflected a more open discourse, even at the highest levels of government, in Zimbabwe since Mugabe was forced from office in November 2017. Still, the report's recommendation that soldiers and police who broke codes of conduct should face 'internal' discipline raised questions about whether any would face significant punishment for the Aug. 1 killings. The report also said opposition leaders had incited violence ahead of the deployment of soldiers in the capital, Harare. The security forces suppressed protests against delays in announcing the results of Zimbabwe's first elections without Mugabe on the ballot. Six people were killed as gunfire erupted in the streets. 'Given that property and lives were under threat, and in light of the inability of the police to disperse the protesters, the firing by the army and the police of warning shots in the air was proportionate,' said Mnangagwa, reading from the commission of inquiry report at a news conference on Tuesday. 'However, the use of live ammunition directed at people, especially when they were fleeing, was clearly unjustified and disproportionate,' he said. The deployment of the military was lawful and 'unavoidable' to protect property and lives after the police had been overwhelmed by protesters, according to the report. It described the protests as 'pre-planned and orchestrated.' Opposition spokesman Jacob Mafume said the findings that implicated opposition leaders in violence were absurd. 'The violence was perpetrated by soldiers who shot at protesters, so in what way would election speeches by our leaders incite a soldier to kill? It is a bizarre finding not supported by facts,' Mafume said. Military generals who appeared before the commission in November denied that soldiers were responsible for the deaths, including some who were shot in the back. The commission of inquiry was headed by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, a generally respected figure whose appointment lent some stature to the investigation. Mnangagwa said that his government will study the report before deciding on its next steps. The crackdown in Harare had led to speculation about whether Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidant with close ties to the military, was aware that the army was moving in or was in fact not in full control of the security forces. The commission of inquiry report addressed that debate, saying the military deployment was done in line with the Constitution. During earlier hearings, the military and other government officials said Mnangagwa gave 'verbal' authority for the deployment. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • Genoa's mayor on Tuesday announced that a 202-million-euro ($229 million) project by hometown architect Renzo Piano inspired by a naval ship has been chosen to replace the Morandi Bridge that collapsed last summer, killing 43 people. The project will be carried out by three Italian firms, construction firm Salini Impregilo, state-run shipbuilder Fincantieri's infrastructure subsidiary and the Italferr state railway subsidiary, which will be charged with engineering aspects. Mayor Marco Bucci said construction will take 12 months and the bridge should be completed, although not yet accessible, by the end of 2019. The bridge will no longer carry the name of Morandi, the architect who constructed the reinforced concrete structure that collapsed, but Bucci didn't indicate a new name. Piano's project incorporates weight-bearing columns that resemble the bow of a ship, and will be illuminated by 43 lamps casting a light shaped like ships' sails and representing each of the victims. Piano will also be the project's technical supervisor. The bridge crosses a densely populated area and is a key artery for much of northern Italy, including the port city of Genoa, the Ligurian coast and southern France. The decree awarding the three companies the project specified that necessity of having a project using weight-bearing columns and not stay cables 'in respect for the psychological aversion that matured in the city after the collapse of the Morandi Bridge,' which included metal support cables that snapped during the collapse. The cause of the Aug. 14 tragedy still hasn't been determined, but prosecutors are investigating poor maintenance or design flaws in the 51-year-old structure as possible hypotheses. Salini Impregilio has extensive experience constructing bridges, including a replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach, California, the Unionport Bridge being built in New York and the second bridge over the Bosphorus Strait. Salini Impregilo and Fincantieri have formed a new company called Peregnova to oversee the project, which they said would take 12 months to complete following demolition of the old structure, which hasn't yet started. Salini Impregilo said that the new Genoa bridge over the Polcevera River will have a 1.1-kilometer-long (1,200-yard) continuous steel deck with 20 spans and 19 elliptical piers. Fincantieri will build the steel structures at its Genoa-Sestieri shipyard and a facility near Verona, and transport elements to the worksite for assembly and welding, which the shipbuilder said would reduce operations to a minimum. Salini Impregilo CEO Pietro Salini said the company would work 'to relaunch the city as quickly as possible and send a strong message to the entire country. Public works can kickstart the economy and start to create jobs again.
  • The world's burgeoning plastic waste crisis has won the attention of Britain's Royal Statistical Society, which chose 90.5 percent — the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled — as its international statistic of the year. The society, which chooses a winner from nominations made by the public, picked the statistic generated in a U.N. report based on the work of U.S. academics Roland Geyer, Jenna R Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law. Public awareness of the problem has been growing, particularly after filmmaker David Attenborough's documentary 'Blue Planet II' showed sea turtles shrouded in plastic, among other horrors. Geyer says he was honored by the accolade and hopes 'it will help draw attention to the problem of plastic pollution that impacts nearly every community and ecosystem globally.
  • A former Nobel Peace Prize winner says the prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece will be nominated for the 2019 peace prize for their efforts to end a 27-year dispute over Macedonia's name. Tunisian businesswoman Wided Bouchamaoui, a joint winner of the 2015 prize, announced her intention to nominate Macedonia's Zoran Zaev and Greece's Alexis Tsipras. Speaking Tuesday in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, she says the name deal signed in June is 'an extremely important process.' The agreement would see Macedonia renamed 'North Macedonia,' and Greece lifting its objections to its northern neighbor joining NATO and the European Union. Greece says Macedonia's current name implies claims on Greek territory and heritage. Macedonia denies that. Macedonia is now ratifying the deal after which Greece will have to sign off on it.
  • BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Anca Pop, a Romanian-Canadian singer-songwriter, has died after her car plunged into the Danube River. She was 34. Emergency authorities identified her body after divers found her car late Monday in southwestern Romania. Her sister alerted police after she failed to arrive at the family home Sunday evening. Police said Tuesday they were investigating the death of Pop. Pop's style was a fusion of Balkan and mainstream pop. She had a big following in Japan. She also collaborated with Bosnian musician Goran Bregovic on his 'Champagne for Gypsies' album. In 1987, Pop fled communist Romania with her family, crossing the Danube into then-Yugoslavia where they became political refugees. Months later, they emigrated to Canada. After communism ended, she returned to Romania. This year she caused a stir by revealing she was in a same-sex relationship, in a society which can be intolerant of homosexuality. She is survived by her parents and sister.
  • The European Union's top diplomat called Tuesday on Kosovo to lift tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as the former Serbian territory faced pushback from longtime allies such as the EU and NATO along with familiar hostilities with Serbia. Kosovo last month slapped a 100-percent tax on Serbian imports, apparently in retaliation after its bid to join the international police organization, Interpol, failed amid intense Serb lobbying. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that 'it is in the interest of Kosovo to immediately revoke this decision.' She urged Pristina to settle its grievances through dialogue. Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 2008 and unilaterally declared independence. Belgrade doesn't recognize the move, nor do a small group of EU states, like Spain for example that fear that recognition might fuel breakaway tendencies in their own countries. Mogherini's appeal came as Kosovo's prime minister accused her of mishandling EU-backed talks on normalizing ties with Serbia. Ramush Haradinaj said the so-called Pristina-Belgrade dialogue led by Mogherini 'has not given its expected products.' He said that while Serbia is taking major steps toward the EU integration, Kosovo residents remain 'in a ghetto,' not enjoying visa-free travel to EU countries even though it claims to have fulfilled the requirements. A news conference planned between Mogherini and Haradinaj in Brussels on Monday was cancelled without reason. Mogherini said Tuesday it was because 'we didn't have any news to give,' and she noted that Haradinaj didn't raise her handling of the talks with her. Haradinaj has said his government will only lift the tariffs once Serbia recognizes Kosovo's independence. 'It is absurd to ask Kosovo to lift the only product it has for the dialogue (with Serbia),' he said at a news conference Tuesday in Pristina. 'We cannot accept only to be loaded with tasks and our people remain isolated in a ghetto,' he added. Mogherini, speaking alongside Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, expressed concerned about a return to conflict and warned that 'the alternative to dialogue is very dangerous.' NATO ambassadors, meanwhile, were weighing Tuesday Kosovo's decision to transform its security force into an army. Belgrade has warned that creating an army in a place it considers Serbian territory could result in an armed intervention. But Kosovo's parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved the army's formation in what President Hashim Thaci described as 'an irreversible act.' NATO and the EU have criticized the move, and NATO could reduce cooperation with Kosovo security services, although it seems unlikely to cut the number of troops in its own security force there, KFOR. 'There is a long-standing agreement that NATO will have to re-examine our level of engagement with the Kosovo Security Force, should its mandate evolve,' spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. She underlined that NATO's KFOR will continue 'to ensure a safe and secure environment.' U.S. President Donald Trump also weighed in, urging Kosovo leaders to reach a reconciliation agreement with Serbia. In a letter to President Thaci, Trump said the EU talks were a chance to reach an 'historic accord' and 'failure to capitalize on this unique opportunity would be a tragic setback.' 'I look forward to hosting you and President Aleksander Vucic at the White House to celebrate,' Trump wrote. ___ Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.
  • The chairman of Huawei challenged the United States and other governments to provide evidence for claims the Chinese tech giant is a security risk as the company launched a public relations effort Tuesday to defuse fears that threaten its role in next-generation communications. Talking to reporters who were invited to Huawei Technologies Ltd.'s headquarters, Ken Hu complained accusations against the biggest global maker of network gear stem from 'ideology and geopolitics.' He warned excluding Huawei from fifth-generation networks in Australia and other markets would hurt consumers by raising prices and slowing innovation. Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei in 5G networks on security grounds. They joined the United States and Taiwan, which have broader curbs on Huawei. Japan's cybersecurity agency says suppliers including Huawei that are deemed high-risk will be excluded from government purchases. The curbs have had little impact so far on Huawei, which says global sales are on track to top $100 billion this year. But the normally press-shy company's decision to hold Tuesday's event appeared to reflect growing concern the accusations could hurt it in an emerging 5G market that industry analysts say could be worth $20 billion a year by 2022. Hu, who appears at industry events but rarely gives interviews, talked for two hours and 20 minutes with American, European and Asian reporters. 'If you have proof or evidence, it should be made known,' said Hu. 'Maybe not to Huawei and maybe not to the public, but to telecom operators, because they are the ones that buy Huawei.' Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, rejects accusations that it is controlled by the ruling Communist Party or designs equipment to facilitate eavesdropping. But foreign officials cite a Chinese law that requires companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies and express concern telecom equipment suppliers might be required to modify products. The emergence of 5G has heightened those fears. The technology is meant to support a vast expansion of telecoms networks to connect self-driving cars, factory robots, medical devices and power plants. That has prompted governments increasingly to view telecoms networks as strategic national assets. 'There has never been any evidence that our equipment poses a security threat,' said Hu. He added later, 'We have never accepted requests from any government to damage the networks or business of any of our customers.' Hu's comments echoed previous denials by company spokespeople. But they marked the first time such a senior figure has directly addressed foreign security complaints, underscoring the company's sensitivity to them. Hu noted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Dec. 10 that no law requires companies to modify equipment to permit secret access. 'We haven't received any request to provide improper information,' he said. 'In the future, we will also act in strict accordance with the law in dealing with similar situations.' The lack of public evidence to support accusations against Huawei has prompted industry analysts to suggest they are an excuse to shield U.S. or European competitors against the rise of a Chinese challenger. Asked about that, Hu said reducing competition would hamper innovation and raise costs for consumers. Hu cited what he said was a forecast by a research firm, Frontier Economics, that the cost of installing 5G wireless base stations in Australia would be 15 to 40 percent higher without competition from Huawei. He said the total cost could be several billion dollars higher. 'You can't make yourself more excellent by blocking competitors from the playing field,' he said. Despite 'efforts to use politics to interfere with industry growth,' Huawei has signed contracts with 25 telecom carriers for commercial or test use of 5G, according to Hu. He said the company has shipped more than 10,000 5G base stations. 'We are proud to say that our customers continue to trust us,' he said. Huawei suffered another setback when its chief financial officer was arrested Dec. 1 in Canada in connection with U.S. accusations the company violated restrictions on sales of American technology to Iran. Hu said he couldn't discuss the Iran accusations because the executive, Meng Wanzhou, is in the midst of court proceedings in Vancouver. Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, Ren Zhengfei, faces possible U.S. charges of lying to a bank to conceal Huawei's dealings with Iran. However, Hu said Huawei is 'very confident in our trade compliance management.' Echoing earlier company statements, he expressed 'confidence in the fairness and independence' of courts involved in Meng's case. Asked whether Meng's arrest made Huawei executives reluctant to leave China, Hu laughed and said, 'There is no impact on our travel plans. At this time yesterday, I was on a plane' returning from Europe. Another Chinese company, ZTE Corp., was nearly forced out of business this year after Washington blocked it from buying U.S. components and technology over its exports to Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump restored access after ZTE paid a $1 billion fine, replaced its executives and hired U.S.-selected compliance managers. Asked whether Huawei would be hurt if it faced similar curbs, Hu said he couldn't talk about something that hadn't happened. But he said the company has a global network of 13,000 suppliers and a 'diversified supply strategy' that allowed it cope with Japan's 2011 tsunami and other disruptions. Huawei is China's first global tech competitor, making it politically important to a ruling Communist Party that wants to transform the country from a low-wage factory into a leader in fields from robotics to clean energy to biotech. The company has a workforce of 180,000 and China's biggest corporate research-and-development budget. It operates in 170 countries and dominates developing markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Analysts have warned Huawei's political importance to Beijing would make any U.S. attempt to impose ZTE-style controls an explosive issue. Relations already are strained over Trump's tariff hikes on billions of dollars of Chinese imports in a fight over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Hu promised repeatedly to expand efforts to respond to 'legitimate concerns' from regulators, telecom carriers or the public. 'We will step up our efforts in communicating and collaborating with governments around the world,' he said. Huawei has opened centers in Britain, Germany and Canada for governments to test its equipment and software. Its newest 'security transparency center' is due to open in Belgium in the first quarter of 2019. Huawei plans to invest $2 billion over the next five years to improve its software development, according to Hu. That follows a report in July by the board that oversees the testing center in Britain that faulted Huawei for weak software engineering. Tuesday's event for reporters included tours of two research-and-development laboratories at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen, which abuts Hong Kong, and a cybersecurity testing center at a newly built campus in Dongguan, an hour's drive to the west. The company said it was the first time reporters had been allowed to see those facilities. The cybersecurity lab's director, Martin Wang, said it has facilities used by customers including Spain's Telefonica to carry out their own tests on Huawei equipment and software. 'We are open to any discussion with customers about how we can improve cybersecurity,' said the company's director of cybersecurity and privacy, Sean Yang.

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  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is asking for your help tracking down an armed robbery suspect who they consider armed and dangerous. The suspect is 20-year-old Jebre Cook, who’s described as 5’9” and 174 lbs. Police say you should not approach him, because he is considered armed and dangerous.  JSO has not said what armed robbery incident they believe Cook is responsible for. If you know anything about Cook’s location, you’re asked to contact JSO at 911 or 904-630-0500, or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. You can also submit an anonymous tip and be eligible for a possible $3,000 reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • The Trump administration moved Tuesday to ban bump stocks -- devices that can make semi-automatic firearms fire at a rate similar to automatic weapons -- under a federal law that also bans machine guns, Justice Department officials said in a news release. >> Read more trending news Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said authorities amended a regulation on Tuesday to include bump stocks in the definition of “machinegun” under federal law. The regulation will go into effect 90 days after it’s formally published in the Federal Register, a move expected to come Friday, according to The Associated Press. >> Read the final rule White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news briefing Tuesday that people who have bump stocks will be required to turn the devices over to officials at field offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or destroy them by March 21. >> What is a bump stock, how does it work and is it legal? Hours after Whitaker announced the move, opponents of the decision said they planned to fight the change. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Trump ban on ‘bump stocks’ to face immediate legal challenge The ban was expected after the Justice Department earlier this year proposed a rule to classify bump stocks and similar devices as prohibited under federal law. >> Trump administration expected to announce gun bump stock ban Trump issued a memorandum in the wake of February’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, ordering the attorney general to “propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns,” according to Justice Department officials. Authorities reviewed more than 186,000 public comments as part of the review process. The Justice Department opened a review of the devices in the wake of the 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that left nearly 60 people dead. Authorities said a gunman had bump stocks equipped to several weapons on Oct. 1, 2017, when he fired on festivalgoers.
  • A 20-year-old Jacksonville man has been arrested after allegedly kidnapping a woman at gunpoint, raping her, and stealing her car. The arrest report for Billy Gaines says he first approached the victim late Sunday at a gas station on Lem Turner Road, where he put a gun to her back and told her to get in the car. JSO says they drove off, but at one point he stopped the car and raped her in the back seat, while he was still holding the gun. The victim reported that they then went to the home of a friend of Gaines, and she then told Gaines something that led him to drive her to another location, according to the arrest report. At that location, police say the victim went inside, called police, and did not come back out. Gaines allegedly fled in the victim’s vehicle. Early Sunday, a patrol Sergeant searching for the suspect saw a vehicle matching the description, while on Golfair Blvd near I-95. JSO says Gaines sped up and took evasive actions. Several marked vehicles continued to pursue him, and he was ultimately stopped in a vacant lot. Gaines allegedly fled on foot from that point, but was caught soon after. He has been arrested for armed sexual battery, kidnapping, carjacking with a firearm, fleeing law enforcement, and resisting an officer without violence.
  • Hours after the Trump Administration signaled that it would administratively move to ban ‘bump stocks,’ which allow semi-automatic weapons to be fired at a much more rapid rate, lawmakers in both parties said it was time for the Congress to enact those regulations into law, as opponents of the decision vowed to immediately challenge the President’s plan in court. “We will be filing our lawsuit very, very soon,” the Gun Owners of America said in a written statement. “After all, in the coming days, an estimated half a million bump stock owners will have the difficult decision of either destroying or surrendering their valuable property – or else risk felony prosecution,” the group added. At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that is the plan, making clear that bump stocks will be illegal as of March 21, 2019. On banning bump stocks, Sanders says people have until March 2019 to turn them in or have them destroyed. Says they fall under same guidelines as machine guns. — Dana Brown Ritter (@danabrownritter) December 18, 2018 “A 90 period now begins which persons in possession of bump stock type devices must turn those devices to an ATF field office, or destroy them by March 21,” Sanders said at the White House briefing. Justice Department officials told reporters on Tuesday that bump stocks will be administratively banned by using language from a federal law which prohibits machine guns. There was no immediate comment from the National Rifle Association on whether that group would join in legal action against bump stocks as well. In Congress, lawmakers in both parties said while the President’s step is overdue, the House and Senate should also vote to codify the bump stock ban. “This is good news, but it is just one small step toward stopping mass shootings,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “We must do far more to prevent gun violence.” “There’s no justification for bump stocks that transform semi-automatic weapons into machine guns,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). A regulation – not a law – is finally being issued to ban bump stocks. This is welcome news. But the country shouldn’t have had to wait a year+ after Vegas to get the most basic regulation. It’s testament to how hard we’ll need to fight to get the comprehensive gun safety we need https://t.co/LgjgBcAhxv — Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) December 18, 2018 “The President seems to be more interested in making headlines than making progress,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “We know that his proposal will likely be tied up in the courts.” 58 people were killed in Titus’ district in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire on an outdoor concert, using ‘bump stocks’ to allow him to shoot more ammunition more quickly, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. “Finally and should be codified,” said Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R-FL), one of the few Republicans who has called for action on bump stocks in Congress.
  • A Texas 19-year-old has been charged with killing a young mother in a violent crash Sunday night as she drove with her toddler son and her mother.  Erick Raphael Hernandez, of Pearland, was charged Monday with intoxication manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old Taylor Phillips, court records show. As of Tuesday morning, he had been released from the Harris County Jail on $30,000 bond.  >> Read more trending news ABC 13 in Houston reported that Phillips was driving an SUV with her mother and 1-year-old son inside when Hernandez crossed three lanes of traffic on a South Houston street and slammed into Phillips’ vehicle with his truck.   The entire crash was caught on a security camera outside a nearby auto repair shop, the news station said. The grainy footage, seen below, appears to show Hernandez’s truck smash into the front driver’s side of Phillips’ SUV. The impact flings debris across the roadway.  Phillips died at the scene.  Her son and 48-year-old mother were hospitalized with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries. The victims’ family told ABC 13 both have since been released to recover at home.  Phillips’ social media profile is filled with photos of her son, who celebrated his first birthday in August.   “Sometimes when I need a miracle, I look into my son’s eyes and realize I’ve already created one,” Phillips wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of her son in October. In another post, she wrote that she had waited for the love of her son her entire life and would “cherish it forever.” Phillips also often mentioned a sister, Tyré Rai Sai Phillips, on her Facebook page. According to the Houston Police Department, Tyré Phillips was an innocent bystander at a party on April 14, 2013, when multiple fights broke out, during which shots were fired.  Tyré Phillips, who was killed as she sought safety, died a week after her 19th birthday. It was not immediately clear if an arrest has ever been made in her slaying.  Court records obtained by ABC 13 indicated that Hernandez was drinking at a bar with a cousin before Sunday’s deadly crash. The legal drinking age in Texas is 21.  Hernandez, whose appears intoxicated in his mugshot, had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and was off-balance after the crash, the news station said. When questioned at the scene, Hernandez admitted he drank a few beers.  “Based on his field sobriety tests, it was a lot more than a few,” Sean Teare, a member of the Harris County District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Unit, told The Houston Chronicle. Teare told the Chronicle that investigators had learned where Hernandez had been drinking prior to the crash. ABC 13 identified the bar as Frontera Events Venue, which is located about a mile from the crash site.  “Obviously, at 19 he shouldn’t be drinking anywhere,” Teare told the newspaper.  ABC 13 reported that the court records indicate Hernandez had been drinking since 6 p.m. Sunday but could not remember when he’d had his last drink. A fake ID and bar receipt were found in his car after the crash.  “We believe that he spent well over $100 at the bar drinking alcohol that day,” Teare told the news station.  The district attorney’s office is now investigating the bar to determine if workers there overserved Hernandez. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission records indicate Frontera, which obtained its license in October 2017, has had six complaints filed against it this year involving alcohol being in the hands of underage individuals. One of those complaints, in which a violation was not found, involved employing someone under the age of 18 to sell or handle alcohol. The remaining five complaints dealt with selling or serving alcohol to minors and serving alcohol to someone already intoxicated. Three of the five complaints were substantiated, the records show. One of the three substantiated claims also included the sale of drugs by the licensee.  Teare told ABC 13 that Frontera’s owner and employees could face charges related to the fatal crash.  “If an establishment, if a server sees somebody who is intoxicated, they’ve got to stop serving,” Teare said. “They’ve got to take steps to ensure that person doesn’t leave their establishment and kill people.” The district attorney’s office is also considering action to shut the bar’s doors for good.  “I just know that a 19-year-old individual came out of that establishment highly intoxicated and moments later took a 23-year-old's life,” Teare told ABC 13. “That shouldn’t happen. Someone in addition to that 19-year-old is going to have to answer for that.”

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