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The Latest Political Headlines

    Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman's name will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as an independent candidate for Kansas governor, presenting a new obstacle to Democratic efforts to defeat conservative Kris Kobach in November. The state Secretary of State's office on Friday posted a short statement saying Orman had presented enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot along with his running mate, John Doll. Orman, 49, will face Democratic State Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka and Kobach, whose nomination was only settled this week after Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded in a primary with a razor-thin margin of some 350 votes out of more than 316,000 cast. Orman says he's in the race to win and rejects suggestions that his role will be as a spoiler who complicates Democrats' efforts to recapture the governor's office after eight years of Republicnas. Democrats were gearing up for a potential legal challenge to Orman's filing. Many Democrats have worried that Orman will pull votes away from Kelly, 68, making it far easier for Kobach, who is the secretary of state. The GOP began a clean sweep of statewide and congressional races in 2010. But the state also has a solid bloc of moderate GOP and independent voters and a history over the past 50 years of alternating between electing Republican and Democratic governors. Orman says he can build a coalition starting with voters upset with both parties, and he cites the value of having an independent governor who will lack 'natural political enemies.' Kobach, 52, is a favorite of President Donald Trump and has a national conservative following thanks to his strong stance against illegal immigration and his fervent defense of voter ID laws. Orman ran as an independent against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014 and did so well in initial polling that the Democratic candidate dropped out to create a better chance of toppling the veteran Republican. Orman lost by 10.5 percentage points after Roberts got campaign help from several GOP stalwarts, including Sarah Palin, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul. Orman made the ballot by submitting more than 10,000 signatures in early August. He needed 5,000 valid signatures to qualify. On Orman's website, he says he supports stronger background checks for gun buyers, ending the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, setting a minimum age of 21 to buy an AR-15 or other semi-automatic weapon and requiring training and licensing for a concealed-carry permit. Orman said he supports the Second Amendment but would like to revisit which types of arms Americans have a right to own, During the 2014 Senate race, Orman described himself as 'pro-choice' and said abortion policy was a matter of settled law and the nation should move on. Orman's running mate Doll is from Garden City and left the Republican Party to run for lieutenant governor. An independent candidate for governor last came close to winning in 1932. Orman graduated from Princeton in 1991 and founded Environmental Light Concepts, a firm that designed and installed energy-efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial use. The company had more than 120 employees when a majority of it was sold to Kansas City Power and Light in 1996. After a stint with KCP&L, Orman co-founded Denali Partners, a private equity firm, and later became managing member of Exemplar Holdings LLC, which oversees several innovation companies.
  • President Donald Trump flew into the Hamptons on Friday for a closed-door fundraiser hosted by one of his closest friends who is chairman of the iconic Nathan's Famous hot dog business. Trump participated in a roundtable with high-dollar donors in Southampton before delivering remarks at a luncheon at a private residence. Howard Lorber, a New York real estate executive who chairs Nathan's Famous, the hot dog fast-food chain familiar to many New Yorkers, hosted the fundraiser. Reporters were not allowed inside to hear the president's remarks. The fundraiser benefits Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee. Trump's visit made the notoriously bad weekend summertime traffic in the Hamptons even worse. As he departed the event, the road leading in the opposite direction was at a total standstill, which gave some motorists an opportunity to get out of their cars to take pictures of Trump's motorcade. He was headed to central New Jersey to spend another weekend at his private golf club. As he left the White House on Friday, Trump told reporters that his weekend in Bedminster was 'going to be all work.
  • The Latest on Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison's response to an allegation of domestic abuse (all times local): 12:20 p.m. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison says he won't abandon his run for Minnesota attorney general amid allegations from an ex-girlfriend that he once physically abused her, 'because I didn't do it.' Ellison made his most expansive comments about the allegations Friday before joining supporters for a campaign outreach event in Minneapolis. Karen Monahan has accused the six-term congressman of dragging her from a bed while screaming at her in 2016. She has claimed to have video but says she won't release it. Ellison easily won Tuesday's primary but the episode has disrupted his campaign and Democrats statewide. State party chairman Ken Martin gave Ellison lukewarm backing Thursday. Ellison says it's up to Monahan to produce a video that he maintains doesn't exist. ___ 8:37 a.m. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is heading out on the campaign trail despite calls to quit the state's attorney general race following allegations of domestic abuse. Ellison is visiting north Minneapolis on Friday to knock on doors and talk to voters. He won this week's Democratic primary just days after a former girlfriend accused him of sending threatening texts and dragging her off a bed. Ellison has denied the allegation, and says a supposed video of the attack does not exist. Minnesota Democrats so far are standing behind Ellison, while saying they are looking into the accusations. Other groups, including the National Organization for Women, say he should leave the race.
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is criticizing federal judges who've thwarted some of President Donald Trump's immigration policies. Sessions spoke during a judicial conference Friday in Des Moines, Iowa. He told the crowd that the judges' 'erroneous rulings' have been costly to taxpayers. He also said judges 'aren't sent from Olympus.' Trump has panned judges who've blocked his immigration policies, including those who've ruled against his administration's effort to end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, or DACA. The program was enacted during President Barack Obama's administration. It has authorized around 700,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain work permits and driver's licenses. Earlier this month, a federal judge halted a deportation process and threatened to hold Sessions in contempt if the mother and daughter weren't returned to the U.S.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he was 'inartful' when he said earlier in the week that America 'was never that great,' a comment that was widely condemned and mocked by critics on the right and left. 'I want to be very clear: Of course America is great and of course America has always been great,' Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters on a conference call. 'My family is evidence of American greatness.' Cuomo's appraisal of the nation was somewhat different Wednesday when, speaking at a Manhattan bill signing, he critiqued Republican President Donald Trump and his slogan, 'Make America Great Again.' 'We're not going to make America great again — it was never that great,' Cuomo told the audience, which reacted with gasps and laughter. 'We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.' The comment set off a wave of criticism of Cuomo, who is seeking a third term this fall and is considered a possible White House contender in 2020. New York Republicans demanded an apology and purchased Cuomo a one-way bus ticket to Montreal. Trump tweeted that Cuomo was having a 'total meltdown.' Cuomo primary challenger and former 'Sex and the City' star Cynthia Nixon accused Cuomo of trying to sound like a liberal and failing. CBS late night host Stephen Colbert said the comment was 'the dumbest thing you could say as a politician.' Trump ridiculed Cuomo again Friday, tweeting that 'when a politician admits that 'We're not going to make America great again,' there doesn't' seem to be much reason to ever vote for him.' After clarifying his thoughts to reporters, Cuomo said he has no plans to run for president but will continue his criticism of Trump, who attended a Long Island fundraiser Friday. Calling the president 'vindictive, petty and small,' Cuomo said 'Make America Great Again' reflects Trump's desire to return America to a time of greater intolerance and inequality. 'Everything he does is repugnant to our values,' he said.
  • The U.S. Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on members of the Myanmar security forces for their alleged role in violent campaigns against ethnic minorities across the troubled nation in Southeast Asia. Myanmar security forces have engaged in ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. 'Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering.' The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Myanmar's western military command, but has faced pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers to impose more sanctions on those involved in a crackdown that began in August 2017 in western Rakhine State where 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fled brutal army operations. The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year's violence. The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights. Myanmar, however, has staunchly denied that its security forces have targeted civilians in so-called clearance operations in Rakhine State on Myanmar's west coast. Friday's action sanctions four commanders with the Myanmar military and border guard police plus two military units for their alleged involvement in ethnic cleaning in Rakhine and other human rights abuses in Burma's Kachin and Shan states. Those sanctioned are: military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing and Thura San Lwin; and members of the 33rd and 99th light infantry divisions. The sanctions block any property they own within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and the revoking of security clearances (all times local): 11:10 a.m. President Donald Trump says he expects to 'quickly' revoke the security clearance for the Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing the dossier on Trump's ties to Russia. Trump says the official, Bruce Ohr, is a 'disgrace.' Asked about Ohr's security clearance, Trump said: 'I suspect I'll be taking it away very quickly. For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.' Ohr has come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts to Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm hired former British spy Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign to compile the dossier. Ohr's wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign — something Trump has tweeted about to highlight his assertions of political bias behind the Russia investigation. ___ 12:15 a.m. Former U.S. security officials issued scathing rebukes to President Donald Trump on Thursday, admonishing him for yanking former CIA chief John Brennan's security clearance in what they cast as an act of political vengeance. Trump said he'd had to do 'something' about the 'rigged' federal probe of Russian election interference. Trump's admission that he acted out of frustration about the Russia probe underscored his willingness to use his executive power to fight back against an investigation he sees as a threat to his presidency. Legal experts said the dispute may add to the evidence being reviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Gary Malcik wore a Trump T-shirt as he waited in a long, post-rally line to pose for pictures with Ted Cruz. It was a far cry from the waning weeks of the 2016 GOP presidential primary, when Donald Trump supporters repeatedly heckled the Texas senator at campaign events, and from that year's Republican National Convention when Cruz was booed for refusing to endorse the party's nominee. But Malcik, 69 and self-employed, said he's glad to no longer have to choose sides. 'People like Ted,' he said. 'People love Trump.' Now facing a high-profile re-election fight with Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke, Cruz says he'd welcome Trump coming to Texas before November — though he shrugged off suggestions he needs the president's coattails to win. 'In the last year and a half, we have seen major victories for Texans,' Cruz said moments after posing with Malcik at a barbecue restaurant whose walls were cluttered with hunting trophies in Temple, 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Dallas. Trump has visited Texas five times as president, including after Hurricane Harvey and to address the National Rifle Association's annual convention. Still, the prospect of his potentially boosting candidate Cruz creates another twist in the awkward dance of one of the leading odd couples in all of politics. The off-again, on-again relationship lays bare just how uncomfortable Trump is for Republicans who want to demonstrate loyalty to someone the Republican base loves, but who also thrived before his rise — and hope to continue to do so after he's gone. Complicating matters is Cruz's refusal to rule out running again for president after Trump leaves the White House, even if the political contortions get awkward in the meantime. 'It gets awfully hard to talk glowingly about a guy when you openly pined for his job,' said Joe Brettell, a Republican strategist in Houston who nonetheless conceded that Cruz 'has no other choice. Donald Trump's going to be president for at least two more years.' Cruz spent the early months of the 2016 presidential race praising Trump, betting that the reality TV star's supporters would flock to him if their candidate's meteoric rise flamed out. The two later clashed bitterly as Cruz finished second for the GOP nomination, with Trump suggesting that Cruz's Cuban-born father had a hand in John F. Kennedy's assassination. Cruz responded that Trump was 'utterly amoral' and refused to endorse him during their party's convention in Cleveland, only to suddenly announce his support barely a month before Election Day 2016. Neither has apologized for their earlier harsh words, but Cruz says his office now speaks to the White House weekly — sometimes daily — about policy. 'There's no doubt my relationship with Donald Trump has had its ups and downs,' Cruz said, adding that, since 2016, on issues like pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, 'I've been very grateful that the president has listened to me and agreed with my position.' The White House hasn't commented on the prospect of Trump campaigning in Texas. But the president has dropped into a number of battleground states, visiting Pennsylvania, Alabama and Ohio before elections there this year. O'Rourke, a one-time punk rocker who has spent the past 18 months visiting all of Texas' 254 counties, has consistently outraised Cruz, including raking in $10.4 million to the incumbent's $4.6 million during the three-month period through June. His campaign declined to comment about the prospect of Trump coming to Texas. Cruz remains favored in the race, but told hundreds who thronged the Temple rally, 'We've got a battle on our hands.' 'The far left is angry,' he said. 'They're energized and they're filled with rage and fury at the president. That's dangerous.' In one indication that Cruz still hasn't lived the presidential race down, a protester interrupted him with cries of 'Lyin' Ted,' Trump's trademark 2016 insult for Cruz. And, when the senator accused O'Rourke of being open to impeaching the president, a man bellowed 'For what?' dissipating the anti-O'Rourke gasps Cruz was hoping to elicit. Olga Bradley, a retired Veterans Administration employee, said she came to the Temple rally because she wanted to be reassured that Cruz would defend Trump after his past opposition. She said she'd repeatedly ignored phone calls seeking support from the Cruz campaign while she awaited further evidence. 'We want politicians who support the president,' said Bradley, 72, who agreed with a friend wearing a 'Make American Great Again' baseball cap who quipped that a joint Trump-Cruz rally in Texas would be so well attended that 'they'd better have it in a 10,000-acre field.' Malcik said he wasn't worried about Trump-Cruz awkwardness but is afraid that O'Rourke can stay within striking distance of Cruz. 'If Trump came down it would be a lot easier,' Malcik said. 'He'd really pull him over the finish line.' ___ Sign up for 'Politics in Focus,' a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP's best political reporting from around the country leading up to the midterm elections: http://apne.ws/3Gzcraw
  • The Latest on the trial of Paul Manafort (all times local): 2:55 p.m. The jury in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's fraud trial has submitted a note to the court asking to stop deliberations half an hour early Friday. Normally they leave at 5:30 p.m., but the note asked to leave at 5 p.m. The judge read the note aloud in court. The jury deliberated for a second day Friday. On Thursday, the jury ended its first day of deliberations with a series of questions to the judge, including a request to 'redefine' reasonable doubt. Manafort is accused of hiding from the IRS millions that he made advising Russia-backed politicians in Ukraine, and then lying to banks to get loans when the money dried up. He faces 18 felony counts on tax evasion and bank fraud. ___ 2:25 p.m. The judge presiding over the fraud trial of former Trump campaign Paul Manafort says he won't release the names of jurors at the trial's conclusion because he fears for their safety and because he himself has received threats. A coalition of media organizations, including The Associated Press, filed a motion requesting the names of jurors after the trial, as well as access to sealed transcripts of bench conferences that have occurred during the three-week trial. Jury lists are presumed to be public unless a judge articulates a reason for keeping them secret. Judge T.S. Eliis III said during a hearing Friday afternoon he is concerned for the 'peace and safety of the jurors.' He said that he personally has received threats and is currently under the protection of U.S. marshals. He declined to delve into specifics, but said he's been taken aback by the level of interest in the trial. __ 11:15 a.m. President Donald Trump is calling Paul Manafort a 'very good person' as a jury deliberates in the tax and bank fraud trial of the former Trump campaign chairman. Trump said Friday at the White House that it was 'a very sad day for our country.' He said Manafort 'worked for me for a very short period of time,' but added 'I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort.' The jury began its second day of deliberations Friday. Prosecutors say Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars in foreign income from the IRS, money he made advising politicians in Ukraine. When the Ukrainian money dried up, they say he lied on loan applications to maintain his cash flow. Defense lawyers say the government failed to prove its case. ___ 10:15 a.m. The Associated Press and five other media organizations are asking the trial judge in the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort to unseal the closed documents being used in the case. The media coalition asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow them to intervene in the case to make the request. After empaneling the jury Friday morning, Ellis said he was inclined to allow the media group to intervene and scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. Friday. In addition to The AP, the other media outlets are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC and BuzzFeed, Inc. Ellis said he had already planned to unseal all materials 'save one exception' after the trial ended. ___ 9:30 a.m. The jury has begun its second day of deliberations in the tax and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Judge T.S. Ellis III sent the jury of six men and six women back to resume deliberations Friday shortly after 9:30 a.m. The jury concluded its first day of deliberations Thursday with a series of questions to the judge. Among other items, the jury requested details on the definition of reasonable doubt. Ellis basically reiterated the instructions the jury had already received. Prosecutors say he hid tens of millions of dollars in foreign income from the IRS by advising politicians in Ukraine. Then, when they Ukrainian money dried up, they say he lied on loan applications to maintain his cash flow. Defense lawyers say the government failed to prove its case and that Manafort relied on underlings to handle his finances.
  • The Trump administration is ending funding for Syria stabilization projects as it moves to extricate the U.S. from the conflict, citing increased contributions from anti-Islamic State coalition partners. The State Department said it had notified Congress on Friday that it would not spend some $230 million that had been planned for Syria programs and would instead shift that money to other areas. Most of that money, initially pledged by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February, had been on hold and under review since he was fired in March. A small fraction of that amount was released in June. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the cut, which was authorized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and does not include humanitarian aid funds, will be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by coalition partners, including $100 million that Saudi Arabia announced it had contributed late Thursday. 'As a result of key partner contributions by coalition members, Secretary Pompeo has authorized the Department of State to redirect approximately $230 million in stabilization funds for Syria which have been under review,' she said in a statement. Nauert said Pompeo's decision took into account the White House's desire to increase burden sharing with allies. The funds will be redirected 'to support other key foreign policy priorities,' said Nauert, who along with other officials rejected suggestions that the elimination of the funds showed diminishing U.S. interest in Syria. Nauert, along with David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, and Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, told reporters on a conference call that the U.S. would remain active in Syria until the Islamic State has been defeated. 'This decision does not represent any lessening of U.S. commitment to our strategic goals in Syria,' Nauert said. Still, the move was seen as a sign the administration is heeding Trump's demand to end U.S. involvement in Syria and reduce its commitment there. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, denounced what he said amounted to Trump 'sprinting down the path of abdicating American leadership on the global stage.' 'By ending U.S. contributions to stabilization efforts in the most vulnerable Syrian communities recently liberated from the terrors of ISIS, this message of U.S. retreat and abandonment is an embarrassment,' he said. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee concurred, calling the move 'astonishingly shortsighted.' In a tweet, they said it was an indication of a 'lack of US leadership' that is 'undercutting US interests in Syria and around the world.' In a bid to reassure its partners in the coalition against IS as well as opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Pompeo appointed veteran diplomatic troubleshooter, James Jeffrey, to be a special envoy for Syria, Nauert said. Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Iraq and Albania who also served as a deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, will hold the title of 'special representative for Syrian engagement.' Jeffrey, who retired in 2012, also holds the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service: career ambassador. He will lead U.S. efforts to reinvigorate a long-stalled peace effort known as the 'Geneva Process' between Assad, the opposition and other countries with equities in Syria, Nauert said. Yet Friday's funding cut is the latest Trump administration financial retreat from Syria. In May, the State Department announced that it had ended all funding for stabilization programs in Syria's northwest. IS militants have been almost entirely eliminated from that region, which is controlled by a hodgepodge of other extremist groups and government forces. In June, the administration freed up a small portion — $6.6 million — of the $200 million that Tillerson had pledged in order to continue funding for the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense organization, and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, a U.N. agency that is investigating war crimes committed during the conflict. That left $193.4 million in limbo that would have had to have been returned to the Treasury Department on Sept. 30 at the end of this budget year if it had remained unspent. Last month, the U.S. helped to organize the evacuation through Israel of White Helmet workers from Syria's south, where Assad's Russian-backed forces launched a new offensive despite a de-escalation agreement between Washington and Moscow. Nauert said that Friday's decision would not affect 'life-saving, needs-based humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Syrians' or U.S. support for the White Helmets or the U.N. mechanism.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Colorado man who for days pleaded publicly for the return of his pregnant wife and two young daughters has been arrested and charged with killing them, police said.  Christopher Lee Watts, 33, of Frederick, was arrested just after 11 p.m. Wednesday night in connection with the slayings of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Shanann Watts, 34, was about 15 weeks pregnant. Bella Watts was days away from starting kindergarten.  John Camper, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon that investigators were “quite certain” the body of Shanann Watts has been recovered. “We have strong reason to believe we know where the bodies of the children are, and recovery efforts are in process on that,” Camper said.  “This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine. I think our hearts are broken for the town of Fredrick as much as anybody’s.” Chris Watts is being held in the Weld County Jail pending formal charges, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said during the briefing. 9News in Denver reported earlier Thursday that Chris Watts faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence. >> Related story: Report: Man with NC ties confesses to killing wife, 2 daughters in Colorado Fredrick police officials said they received a call just before 2 p.m. Monday reporting Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts missing. The report was made by a friend who went to the family’s home in the Wyndham Hill subdivision and found no sign of Shanann or the girls.  Chris Watts said in an interview Tuesday with 9News that he saw the woman at the front door, via the home’s doorbell camera, and realized his family was missing.  “I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘I can’t get ahold of Shanann,’” Watts said. “That’s when I was just, like, ‘OK, something’s not right.’” He said he, too, had been unable to reach his wife via phone or text message. See Chris Watts’ entire interview with 9News below. Shanann Watts’ vehicle, as well as her purse and medication for the children, were all still at the house, authorities said. Police on Tuesday upgraded the missing persons report to an “Endangered Missing Alert” because of the potential medical concerns with the children.   Investigators conducted multiple interviews and officers canvassed the family’s neighborhood for witnesses and clues. News of the missing mother and daughters soon went national, and Watts did his interview with 9News on Tuesday, in which he described his family’s disappearance as “earth-shattering.”  “I don’t feel like this is even real right now. It’s like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from,” Watts told a reporter. Watts spoke in loving terms of his daughters.  “Celeste, she’s just a bottle of energy,” he said. “I call her ‘Rampage’ because she's got two speeds: go, or she’s sleeping. She’s always the troublemaker, she’s always the one, like, jumping off things. Bella, she’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type, and she’s more like me -- she’s more calm. Celeste has definitely got her mom’s personality, where she’s all gung-ho, ready to go.” The young father also addressed those who might think he had a hand in his family’s disappearance. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here. This house is not the same.” Less than 24 hours later, Watts was in custody. A law enforcement source told 9News that Watts confessed to killing his wife and children.  No motive has been established, though The Denver Post reported the couple had serious financial problems over the years. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2015, citing liabilities of more than $400,000.  The Wyndham Hill Master Association filed a civil claim against the couple last month, but details of that claim were not immediately available, according to the Post.  >> Read more trending news Shanann Watts wrote on social media about the trips and vacations she had earned for her family through Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products. The Post reported that Watts’ position with the company appeared to have rejuvenated the family’s finances.  “We have qualified for so many amazing trips in two years that we never otherwise would have been able to visit,” she wrote about trips to New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Diego, Toronto, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.  Chris Watts worked for Anadarko Petroleum Co., according to bankruptcy records.  Le-Vel officials wrote on Facebook Thursday morning that their hearts were broken for Shanann Watts and her daughters.  “Shanann was an amazing woman, mother, friend, and overall person,” the statement read. “She lit up every room and was a joy to be around. Our love, prayers, and support go out during this devastating time to her family, friends, and to all Thrivers who had the great fortune of knowing Shanann and her two beautiful daughters.” Shanann Watts’ brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote that he just wants to know why his sister and nieces died.  “My precious family, my one and only sibling, my sister Shanann, two adorable nieces, Bella and Celeste, and her soon-to-be-found-out unborn son, Niko,” Rzucek wrote. “I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul.” Some of the more poignant social media posts come from the Facebook page of Shanann Watts herself. In a post that included a photo of one of her girls playing at the beach, the young mother wrote of her fears of letting her daughter out into the world.  “The world is a scary place,” Shanann Watts wrote on Aug. 4, just over a week before their disappearances. “I will do everything in my power to teach her right and to protect her, advocate, stand up for her and defend her. I pray every day that she never feels any less than the rest of the world. I pray that she’s protected when I’m not around to protect her.  “Nothing or no one will stop me.”
  • Bodies believed to be those of Christopher Watts’ two young daughters were recovered late Thursday in Colorado, bringing to a tragic close a missing persons’ case that captured the nation’s attention. Watts, 33, of Frederick, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence in the deaths of his wife and children, Weld County Jail records show. He is being held without bail.  Frederick police officials announced Thursday night that they believed they had found the bodies of Bella Watts, 4, and Celeste Watts, 3, though they declined to say where the bodies were found.  “While we will not disclose the location as to where these bodies were located, police can say that they were found in close proximity to the other body whom officers strongly believe is (their mother) Shanann’s,” officials said on Facebook.  The body of Watts’ wife, Shanann Watts, was recovered earlier Thursday. John Camper, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon that investigators were “quite certain” the body was that of the 34-year-old woman, who was about 15 weeks pregnant when she and her daughters were reported missing Monday.  Chris Watts made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon, 9News in Denver reported. Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke told the court that the slayings took place in the family’s Frederick home.  Camper said Thursday that Shanann Watts’ remains were found on the property Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the oil and natural gas exploration company for which Chris Watts worked. 9News in Denver reported that Anadarko has multiple properties within 15 miles of Frederick. >> Related story: Colorado man who pleaded for return of missing wife, daughters arrested in deaths Anadarko released a statement in which a spokesperson said Watts was fired Wednesday, the day of his arrest, 9News reported.  “We are heartbroken by this, and our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones and friends of the Watts family,” the statement read. “We will continue to support law enforcement in its investigation.” Law enforcement officials also expressed sorrow over the homicides.  “This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine,” Camper said Thursday. “I think our hearts are broken for the town of Fredrick as much as anybody’s.” Fredrick police officials said they received a call just before 2 p.m. Monday reporting Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts missing. The report was made by a friend who went to the family’s home in the Wyndham Hill subdivision and found no sign of Shanann or the girls.  Chris Watts said in an interview Tuesday with 9News that he saw the woman at the front door, via the home’s doorbell camera, and realized his family was missing.  “I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘I can’t get ahold of Shanann,’” Watts said. “That’s when I was just, like, ‘OK, something’s not right.’” He said he, too, had been unable to reach his wife via phone or text message.  See Chris Watts’ entire interview with 9News below. Shanann Watts’ vehicle, as well as her purse and medication for the children, were all still at the house, authorities said. Police on Tuesday upgraded the missing persons report to an “Endangered Missing Alert” because of the potential medical concerns with the children.  >> Related story: Report: Man with NC ties confesses to killing wife, 2 daughters in Colorado Investigators conducted multiple interviews and officers canvassed the family’s neighborhood for witnesses and clues. News of the missing mother and daughters soon went national, and Watts did his interview with 9News on Tuesday, in which he described his family’s disappearance as “earth-shattering.”  “I don’t feel like this is even real right now. It’s like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from,” Watts told a reporter. >> Read more trending news Watts spoke in loving terms of his daughters.  “Celeste, she’s just a bottle of energy,” he said. “I call her ‘Rampage’ because she's got two speeds: go, or she’s sleeping. She’s always the troublemaker, she’s always the one, like, jumping off things. Bella, she’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type, and she’s more like me -- she’s more calm. Celeste has definitely got her mom’s personality, where she’s all gung-ho, ready to go.” The young father also addressed those who might think he had a hand in his family’s disappearance. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here. This house is not the same.” Less than 24 hours later, Watts was in custody. A law enforcement source told 9News that Watts confessed to killing his wife and children. 
  • With Florida's Primary Election Day quickly approaching, WOKV is breaking down everything you need to know ahead of August 28th. VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  In order to vote in the primaries, the Florida Division of Election says you needed to register to vote ahead of the July 30, 2018, deadline. If you missed that, you can register to vote between now and October 9, 2018, in order to vote in the General Election on November 6th.  SAMPLE BALLOTS:  Florida is a closed primary election state-- meaning only voters who are registered members of a political party can vote for that party's candidates or nominees. That means your sample ballot will vary, depending on which political party you're registered in. Ballots will also vary by county.  You can access sample ballots, by visiting the Supervisor of Elections website for your specific county. Links are posted below: Baker County Clay County Duval County Nassau County St. Johns County Sample ballots have also been mailed out. WHAT TO BRING: In order to cast your ballot, you’ll need to bring a photo and signature ID. This can include a Florida Driver’s License, Florida ID, a US passport, a military ID, a student ID, among other options. You can read more about ID requirements HERE. If you fail to bring proper identification, you will be issued a provisional ballot. HOW TO FIND YOUR PRECINCT Baker County voters, click HERE Clay County voters, click HERE Duval County, click HERE Nassau County, click HERE St. Johns County, click HERE EARLY VOTING DATES: Baker County  August 16, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Clay County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Duval County August 13, 2018- August 26, 2018 Nassau County  August 17, 2018 - August 25, 2018  St. Johns County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018
  • If you want to avoid the crowd on Florida's Primary Election Day, early voting kicks off on Monday in Duval County.  According to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections website, early voting for Duval County residents will begin Monday, August 13th, and run through Sunday, August 26th.  The county will be opening 18 early voting sites 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM each of the days:  The Supervisor of Elections Main Office will also be open, but the hours run 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sundays are from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  For early voting you will need to present a photo and signature ID. If you don't have an acceptable ID, you will be issued a provisional ballot.  To find a sample ballot, click HERE. Florida's Primary Election Day is August 28th.  Early voting dates for other Northeast Florida counties:  Baker County  August 16, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Clay County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Nassau County  August 17, 2018 - August 25, 2018  St. Johns County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018
  • Jacksonville Public Library needs your help to secure $25,000 worth of children’s books for our city.  JetBlue is giving out that prize, and a reading room makeover, to one of its destination cities. Right now, Jacksonville is in the lead, but Cleveland is a strong second, and voting continues through the end of the month.  Voting is unlimited, through the JetBlue Soar with Reading/Book With Us contest website. 16 cities are in the running, as finalists. Share this post on Facebook to help spread the word! 

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