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    High school students are getting more sleep in Seattle, say scientists studying later school start times. Teenagers wore activity monitors to find out whether a later start to the school day would help them get more sleep. It did, adding 34 minutes of slumber a night. They also reported less daytime sleepiness, and grades improved. The Seattle School District changed from a 7:50 a.m. start time to 8:45 a.m. in the fall of 2016 for high schools and most middle schools, joining dozens of other U.S. school districts adopting later starts to help sleep-deprived teens. Teenagers' nightly sleep has decreased and most adolescents don't get the recommended nine hours. One culprit: Light from devices that many teens use to chat, post and scroll long after dark. Franklin High School senior Hazel Ostrowski, who took part in the study, said sleeping later makes it easier to pay attention during class but she still struggles sometimes. 'I'll wake up so tired I wish I could go back to sleep. At night, I'll be on my phone and I just want to stay up,' she said. Researchers worked with science teachers at two high schools to find out if students got more sleep after the change or simply stayed up later. Over two years, they recruited 178 sophomores to wear wristwatch-like monitors for two weeks to track activity and light exposure. Results were published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The scientists compared sleep habits of sophomores in spring 2016, before the change, to sleep habits of sophomores from spring 2017, after later start times went into effect. Some measures held steady. Naps and weekend sleep schedules didn't change. On school nights, only a few students stayed up later, not enough to greatly budge the average. What changed was wakeup time, with morning activity starting about 45 minutes later on school days. Combined with a slight shift to later bedtimes for a few, the average sleep duration increased by 34 minutes. Put another way, morning wakeup time shifted from 6:24 a.m. to 7:08 a.m. Falling asleep shifted only a tad, from 11:27 p.m. to 11:38 p.m. 'Given all the pressures keeping our teenagers awake in the evening — screen time, social media — this is a great thing to see,' said Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington biology professor who led the study. Digging deeper, researchers analyzed schoolwide data on first-period punctuality and attendance. Of the two high schools, the one in a more affluent area showed no difference year to year. But the school in a poorer area had less tardiness and fewer absences after the change, a hint that later start times could help with socioeconomic learning gaps, the researchers said. Exam scores and other grades in the science classes increased year to year by a small margin, but the authors acknowledge that teachers' views on the later start time could have unconsciously boosted the grades they gave. Most U.S. middle and high schools start before 8:30 a.m., contrary to an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation, said University of Minnesota researcher Kyla Wahlstrom, who studies the issue. School districts resist, she said, because later start times disrupt bus schedules and sports practices, and rob parents of afternoon teenage baby sitters to watch younger kids. Prior studies relied on students recalling how much they slept. This was the largest to use a stronger measure, the wearable monitor, she said. Bringing the research into classrooms made it a learning experience for students, Wahlstrom said, 'a brilliant way to do it.' ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson on Twitter: @CarlaKJohnson ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Congress has agreed to make it easier to kill sea lions threatening fragile runs of salmon in the Northwest. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that a bill approved by the House Tuesday changes the Marine Mammal Protection Act to lift some of the restrictions on killing sea lions to protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries. The measure had previously passed the Senate. Wildlife managers say sea lion populations have grown so large that they no longer need all the protections that were put in place for them in 1972. The measure would usher in a more streamlined process for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and several Pacific Northwest tribes to capture and euthanize sea lions. Sea lions deemed to be a problem are captured and euthanized. Supporters, including the governors of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, fishing groups and tribes, have said the bill will give wildlife managers greater flexibility in controlling California sea lions that dramatically increased from about 30,000 in the 1960s to about 300,000 following enactment of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Jaime Pinkham, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said in a statement that he was 'grateful Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to give us the local flexibility to protect the tribal treaty resources we share with others in the Columbia and Willamette rivers.' Critics called the move by Congress ill-conceived and say it will not solve the problem of declining salmon, which also face other problems such as habitat loss and dams. While there are several thousand California sea lions in the Columbia River estuary, only about 200 to 300 swim more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) upriver from the Pacific Ocean and would be eligible for removal, state wildlife officials say. An orca task force convened by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, also backed the legislation to boost the fish for the struggling population of southern resident killer whales.
  • Shares in Chinese streaming music giant Tencent Music Entertainment are up 7 percent to $13.90 in afternoon trading Thursday, their first day of trade The company's initial public offering of 82 million shares was priced at $13 a share and is expected to raise between $1.07 billion and $1.23 billion. The stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the 'TME' symbol. A little more than half of the shares are being offered by the company, with the remainder being offered by shareholders. Tencent said earlier this year it had more than 800 million users, including 23.3 million subscribers to its music library. Tencent, whose shareholders include the leading music streaming service Spotify, earned $199 million on revenue of $1.66 billion last year. Spotify went public in April.
  • American diplomats affected by mysterious health incidents in Cuba showed damage in the inner ear shortly after they complained of weird noises and sensations, according to their earliest medical exams, publicized Wednesday. The detailed findings were published in a medical journal nearly two years after what the U.S. calls 'health attacks' began — and they shed no new light on a possible culprit. 'What caused it, who did it, why it was done — we don't know any of those things,' said Dr. Michael Hoffer of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who led the exams. The U.S. says since late 2016, 26 people associated with the embassy in Havana suffered problems that include dizziness, ear pain and ringing, and cognitive problems such as difficulty thinking — a health mystery that has damaged U.S.-Cuba relations. The Miami researchers examined 25 of those people, who reported hearing a piercing noise or experiencing a sensation of pressure before their symptoms began. The patients failed a variety of tests that detect inner-ear problems associated with balance, what's called the vestibular system. Testing of 10 people who were in the same building at the time of the incidents found they were fine, Hoffer reported in the journal Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology. Hoffer also traveled to Cuba to check 100 other Americans stationed there, who also turned out to be healthy. Those inner-ear balance problems have been central to the government's ongoing health investigation. And earlier this year, a team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania who also examined many of these patients, but months later, reported they suffered concussion-like brain damage, despite no blow to the head. For doctors, Wednesday's paper adds specifics about the pattern of damage, abnormalities in structures involved with sensing gravity and acceleration, said Dr. Maura Cosetti of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. She isn't involved with any research related to the Cuba incidents. 'This provides an important step in creating a picture of the injury that people sustained,' she said. She added that often people with long-term balance problems also report a 'brain fog.' Cuba has adamantly denied any involvement, and even questions whether there were attacks. 'There's no evidence that can prove that something occurred in Cuba that could have damaged the health situation of a few U.S. diplomats,' Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Cuba's director-general of U.S. affairs, said Wednesday. The U.S. has not said what caused the incidents, although initial speculation centered on some type of sonic attack. The Associated Press has reported that an interim FBI report last January found no evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage. ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Outgoing U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah bemoaned the disappearance of political civility, kinship and cross-party collaboration during a farewell speech where he called the Senate a legislative body in 'crisis.' The 84-year-old Hatch spoke Wednesday on the Senate floor in Washington. He will step down next month as the longest-serving Republican senator in history after serving 42 years. Hatch said senators must 'rise above the din and divisiveness of today's politics' and called for greater unity. He highlighted his working relationship with the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He also called on the Senate to find ways to protect people's religious liberties while also shielding LGBTQ people from discrimination.
  • The Latest on California wildfires all times local): 10:33 a.m. Insurance claims from last month's California wildfires already are at $9 billion. State insurance commissioner Dave Jones announced the figure Wednesday and said it is likely to rise. About $7 billion in claims are from the Camp Fire that destroyed the Northern California city of Paradise. The rest is for the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California. There are more than 28,000 claims for residential personal property, nearly 2,000 from commercial property and 9,400 in auto and other claims for the fires. That's well above the number of claims filed following a series of fires that tore through Northern California's wine country last year. Losses resulting from those fires were initially pegged at $3.3 billion but eventually grew to $9 billion. ___ 10:20 a.m. A Northern California utility says it found damaged power lines and other equipment with bullet holes at two sites near where the state's most destructive wildfire in at least a century is believed to have started. Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday told regulators that inspectors found a broken hook and a 'flash mark' on a high-voltage tower, suggesting a power line broke free and made contact with the tower at the same location and time the Nov. 8 fire is believed to have started. PG&E also told the California Public Utilities Commission that several miles away workers found a fallen power pole and equipment with bullet holes. Investigators have not determined what caused the wildfire. A growing number of fire victims have filed lawsuits alleging that PG&E's equipment started the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people. ___ 12:05 a.m. Insurance claims and cleanup costs associated with California wildfires last month are expected to exceed the record-breaking amounts paid out last year after blazes ripped through the state's wine country. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says he will release preliminary claims data Wednesday morning for the three wildfires last month that destroyed 19,000 homes and businesses. The insurance industry is bracing for payouts exceeding last year's record $10 billion payments to Northern California fire victims. The California Office of Emergency Service says it will cost at least $3 billion to clear debris. Most of the work will occur in Northern California, where the Camp Fire destroyed the city of Paradise and killed at least 86 people. ___ This story has been corrected to show that payments to victims of last year's Northern California wildfires were $10 billion, not $11.8 billion.
  • Four states that say burning coal will hurt their residents as it makes climate change worse are trying to stop the Trump administration in federal court from selling vast reserves of the fuel that are beneath public lands. Attorneys for California, New Mexico, New York and Washington argue the coal sales have been shortchanging taxpayers because of low royalty rates and cause pollution that puts the climate and public health at risk. The states were joined by conservation groups and Montana's Northern Cheyenne tribe in a lawsuit that seeks to revive a coal leasing moratorium imposed under President Barack Obama. The moratorium blocked new lease sales from federal lands that hold billions of tons of the fuel. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, who was appointed by Obama, is presiding over a Thursday hearing on whether the moratorium should be reinstated. The Trump administration said in court filings that ending the moratorium last year was of critical importance to the economy. That claim comes despite the slow pace of lease sales in recent years and a precipitous drop in demand for the heavily-polluting fuel. U.S. lands in Western states including Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado are a major source of coal for mining companies. There are 7.4 billion tons of the fuel in roughly 300 leases administered by the Bureau of Land Management . Morris recently ruled in a separate case that the administration must consider reduced coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana to help combat climate change. The judge has played the role of spoiler to Trump on another Obama administration policy reversal — the contentious Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada. Trump approved the pipeline last year, but Morris blocked it temporarily in March. The judge said further environmental reviews were needed for the line to comply with federal laws. Some of those same laws are at the center of the coal moratorium dispute. The states and their allies want push to stop further leasing and resume a sweeping review of the program's environmental impacts. Government attorneys and the National Mining Association say the review started under Obama was a voluntary step and the Trump administration is within its rights to end it. 'We view this as a legal issue and believe this is an open and shut case,' said Conor Bernstein with the mining association, which has intervened in the case. Growing concerns over climate change have put a spotlight on the once-obscure coal leasing program, which has gone largely unchanged and not been through a major environmental review since 1979. Companies have mined about 4 billion tons of coal from federal reserves in the past decade, contributing $10 billion to federal and state coffers through royalties and other payments. Backers of the leasing program say those revenues would be at risk over the long term if it ended. The Obama administration blocked the sale of new leases in 2016 out of concerns over climate-changing greenhouse gases from burning coal and to review royalty rates paid by mining companies for federal coal. Federal officials and members of Congress have said for years the royalty rates were shortchanging taxpayers. Under Obama, the U.S. Interior Department was considering raising those royalty rates to offset the effects of climate change from burning coal. On an order from Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke withdrew the moratorium in March 2017. The former Montana congressman said the Obama administration's environmental review would cost 'many millions of dollars' and that improvements to the program could be made without a full-scale environmental study. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Zinke's actions fly in the face of the dire consequences of climate change for the U.S. economy as outlined in a government report released last month. 'He ignored the law in opening the door to expanded coal leasing without taking a hard look at the environmental consequences,' Becerra said in a statement. 'The rule of law can be a stubborn thing for those who don't wish to respect it.' After the Trump administration ended the moratorium, Zinke appointed a committee to review the royalty rates. Critics contend he's stacked the panel with industry-friendly representatives interested in maintaining the status quo. ___ Follow Matthew Brown at https://twitter.com/matthewbrownap
  • California regulators are considering a plan to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones to help support programs that make phone service accessible to the poor, according to a newspaper report Wednesday. The proposal is scheduled for a vote next month by the state Public Utilities Commission, the Mercury News reported. The wireless industry and business groups have been working to defeat the plan. 'It's a dumb idea,' said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business-sponsored advocacy group. 'This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it's almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.' It's unclear how much money individual consumers would be asked to pay their wireless carrier for texting services under the proposal, the newspaper said. But it is likely would be billed as a flat surcharge — not a fee per text. Wunderman said he's unaware of any other local, state or federal program that taxes texting. And the wireless industry has argued the state commission lacks legal grounds for doing so. Business groups calculated the new charges for wireless consumers could total about $44.5 million a year. They said that under the regulators' proposal the charge could be applied retroactively for five years — and could amount to a bill of more than $220 million for California consumers. A CPUC report proposing the texting surcharge says the Public Purpose Program budget has climbed from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million last year. But the telecommunications industry revenues that fund the program fell from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017, it said. 'This is unsustainable over time,' the report says, arguing that adding surcharges on text messaging will increase the revenue base that funds programs that help low-income Californians afford phone service. 'From a consumer's point of view, surcharges may be a wash, because if more surcharge revenues come from texting services, less would be needed from voice services,' CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said in a statement. ___ Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com
  • Hungary's parliament on Wednesday approved amendments to the labor code — changes that trade unions and opponents have criticized as 'slave law' benefiting employers. Lawmakers voted 130-52, with one abstention, to pass the government-backed proposal. Opposition members tried to stop the measure's approval by blowing whistles and sirens during most of the voting and blocking access to the parliament speaker's pulpit. The changes include raising the maximum amount of overtime workers can put in a year from 250 to 400 hours and relaxing other labor rules in a bid to offset Hungary's growing labor shortage. The legislation also gives employers three years instead of one to settle payments of accrued overtime. Another amendment allows employers to agree on overtime arrangements directly with workers, bypassing collective bargaining agreements and the unions. Critics say increasing overtime limits to up to 400 hours annually — the equivalent of adding a full day to the work week — is exploitative and a potential health risk for workers, going against the government's stated goal of favoring family life. The government says more labor flexibility is needed to satisfy investors' needs — like those of the German car companies whose factories help drive Hungary's economic growth — and to allow workers looking to earn more to work longer hours. Opposition parties said the vote was invalid on procedural grounds — including the fact that parliamentary officials led proceedings from the floor after being blocked from accessing the pulpit — and they would consider possible legal appeals. Some lawmakers said it was time for more direct action, too. By early evening, a few thousand protesters were marching on Budapest's main ring road, blocking traffic, blowing whistles and shouting slogans like 'Mafia government.' 'We are going to go out on the streets and we urge everyone to do the same,' Timea Szabo, a member of the opposition Dialogue party. 'We are not stopping here. We are going to take advantage of every legal option to nullify this law.' The far-right Jobbik party also protested the amendments' passage, marching to President Janos Ader's office in Buda Castle and handing over a petition asking him to refrain from signing the changes into law.
  • From suggestions of 'political synergy' and offers of business deals to contact with more than a dozen people in then-candidate Donald Trump's orbit, Russian outreach to the Trump campaign has a familiar and alarming pattern to experts in the intelligence field. The attempts by Russians to establish contact, which were laid out in the latest court filings by special counsel Robert Mueller, were persistent, apparently targeted and more frequent than would be expected during a typical presidential campaign, former officials said after reviewing the documents. 'This pattern is what the Russians do everywhere else in the world,' said Steven Hall, a former CIA official. 'It's standard intelligence tradecraft.' Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for more than a year and has not revealed clear evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Much of the investigation is still under wraps, but the portrait emerging from court filings and other sources is striking to intelligence professionals. 'It's all vintage Russian intelligence behavior,' said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA officer and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Trump, who has repeatedly lashed out at the probe, insisted in a tweet again this week that there was 'NO COLLUSION' between his campaign and Russia. And it's not unheard of for campaigns to be in contact at times with foreigners. What's 'completely unusual' is the number of people involved, said Trevor Potter, who was general counsel for the late Sen. John McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns. Typically, any such communications would be routed through the foreign policy team and the general counsel alerted, he said. Court filings and Associated Press reporting identified contacts between at least 14 people linked to the Trump campaign and Russian nationals. They include a Russian who reached out to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in 2015 and offered 'political synergy' between Russia and the Republican campaign. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that person is a former Russian Olympic athlete named Dmitry Klokov. Former intelligence officials say the pattern of Russian outreach emerging is similar to the early stage of a Russian intelligence operation. Russian agents or third parties will approach people offering to help improve U.S.-Russian relations or offering a business deal before talking politics, said Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russian operations. Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, which recent court filings from Mueller show, began within months of Trump announcing his candidacy in June, 2015. A number of the Russians initiating the contact or proposing business deals were obscure figures with ties to the country's military or powerful oligarchs. On Trump's side, Russians made contact with at least 14 individuals ranging from members of Trump's family and senior members of his campaign to mid- and low-level associates. The range of people in Trump's orbit contacted by Russian individuals suggest the operation was in its early stages and was casting a 'wide net,' Hall said. 'This is how Russian intelligence approaches start, in an amenable way,' Hall said, noting that the word 'synergy' in the Mueller filing stood out to him in particular. Russian agents or third parties will approach people offering to help improve U.S.-Russian relations or offering a business deal before talking politics, he said. Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian security services, said from what has been revealed so far he is doubtful the contacts were part of a Kremlin-directed operation. 'What I see are greedy and foolish people trying to do business in Russia and thinking it was still the wild 1990s where all you needed was a buck and a Western name to make money,' said Galeotti, who is now a fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague. Galeotti said it is likely most of the Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign were 'self-motivated.' 'It's often that you will have a whole variety of different actors doing what they think the Kremlin would like them to do in the hope that they will be rewarded down the line,' he said. Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said he was surprised by the relative obscurity of many of the Russians identified by the Mueller investigation. 'These are not the most prominent business people,' McFaul said. 'This is not how Boeing, for example, does business in Russia. It seems rather amateurish.' Former U.S. intelligence officials say the 'amateurish' nature of the Russians who contacted the Trump campaign could be by design. Russian intelligence agencies often use third parties to initiate contact. 'That's why you're seeing this weird cast of characters,' Hall said, explaining that individuals like Konstantin Kilimnik fit the profile of someone who would be used by a Russian intelligence agency as a low-level intermediary. Mueller believes Kilimnik — who was born in Soviet Ukraine and served in the Soviet military before joining the International Republican Institute in Moscow as a translator — has ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik has denied this. The emergence of Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, as central to Russian contact with the campaign also fits the mold of a Russian intelligence operation. Cohen's large debt of over $14 million could be easily identified as a possible leverage point and by arranging the payment of hush money he demonstrated his willingness to undertake risky behavior. 'The goal is assess vulnerability and access,' Riedel said. 'Cohen would be an obvious target on both counts.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A federal judge in New York sentenced President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months imprisonment on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to several charges earlier this year. >> Read more trending news Cohen, 52, admitted to lying last year to Congress in connection to a Trump Tower deal in Moscow after prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team charged him with making false statements. >> Michael Cohen pleads guilty to making false statements to Congress He also pleaded guilty in August to eight charges including multiple counts of tax evasion and arranging illicit payments to silence women who posed a risk to Trump's presidential campaign. >> Trump was implicated in two felonies: What does that mean? Update 1:55 p.m. EST: Cohen prompted American Media Inc. to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story about an affair she claims she had with Trump years before the 2016 presidential election, federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York confirmed Wednesday. McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. The rights to her story were bought in August 2016 by American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the Wall Street Journal reported in July, McDougal’s story was never published. Prosecutors said Wednesday that officials previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc. Company officials admitted to making the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen also paid adult film star $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors said Cohen was reimbursed for his payment to Daniels in monthly installments “disguised as payments for legal services pursuant to a retainer, when in fact no such retainer existed.” “Cohen made or caused both of these payments in order to influence  the 2016 election and did so in coordination with one or more members of the campaign,” prosecutors said in a news release. Update 12:45 p.m. EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Wednesday that Cohen’s cooperation with prosecutors 'does not wipe the slate clean' of his crimes. Pauley sentenced Cohen to serve three years in prison for crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence Daniels and McDougal. Cohen’s former attorney, Lanny Davis, said in a statement released Wednesday that Cohen “continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump’s misconduct over the years.” “Mr. Trump’s repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said. “Michael has owned up to his mistakes and fully cooperated with Special Counsel Mueller in his investigation over possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Trump has accused Cohen of lying to authorities in order to get a lighter sentence and denied any wrongdoing. >> Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says Trump told him to pay off Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal Update 12:15 p.m. EST: Cohen will be required to surrender to authorities on March 6 to serve the 36-month sentence handed down Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. U.S. District Judge William Pauley III also required Cohen forfeit $500,000 and pay $1.4 million in restitution and $50,000 in fines, the news site reported. >> More on Robert Mueller's investigation Update 12:05 p.m EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to eight charges in New York over the summer, Newsday reported. He was sentenced to two months for lying to Congress. The sentence will run concurrent with the New York sentence. “Cohen pled guilt to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,' Pauley said before handing down the sentence Wednesday, according to CNN.  Pauley credited Cohen for his cooperation with Mueller's team, however, he added that as an attorney, 'Mr. Cohen should have known better,' Newsday reported. Update 11:50 a.m. EST: Cohen said he takes “full responsibility” for the charges he's pleaded guilty to while addressing the court Wednesday. “This may seem hard to believe but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life,” he said, according to CNN. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired.' Update 11:45 a.m. EST: Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Nicolas Roos said Wednesday that Cohen's crimes carried a 'tremendous societal cost,' CNN reported. “In committing these crimes, Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law,” Roos said. Update 11:35 a.m. EST: Jeannie Rhee, an attorney for special counsel Robert Mueller's team, said in brief comments in court Wednesday that Cohen provided investigators with 'credible information' related to the investigation into Russian election meddling, Newsday reported. 'Mr. Cohen has sought to tell us the truth, and that is of utmost value to us,' Rhee said. Update 11:15 a.m. EST: Cohen's attorney, Guy Petrillo, said in court Wednesday that Cohen cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office 'knowing that he'd face a barrage of attack by the president,' according to the Courthouse News Service. Petrillo said Cohen “offered evidence against the most powerful person in our country,” CNN reported. Update 10:55 a.m. EST: Cohen arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan early Wednesday ahead of an 11 a.m. sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III. Original report: Federal prosecutors in New York have asked that Cohen receive a “substantial prison term” of around four years, saying in a court filing last week that he'd failed to fully cooperate with investigators and overstated his helpfulness. Cohen’s attorneys have argued for leniency, arguing that some of Cohen's crimes were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Feds: Manafort lied to prosecutors, Cohen should get jail time The president has denied that he had affairs with either McDougal or Daniels, but prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to the women at Trump’s direction. On Monday, the president wrote in a tweet that the payments were “a simple private transaction,” and not a campaign contribution. Trump said that “even if it was” a campaign contribution, Cohen should be held responsible. “Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,” Trump wrote. “Cohen (is) just trying to get his sentenced reduced. WITCH HUNT!” >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Denouncing Cohen, Trump disputes campaign link to payoff of women A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts told The Associated Press that Wednesday's hearing might not be the last word on his punishment. Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles. 'Few things spark a defendant's renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit,' he said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • As a grieving California couple shares photos of their 13-year-old son with autism, who died last month after being restrained by teachers, other parents have begun pulling their children from the inclusive private K-12 school where it took place.  The parents of Max Benson, a student at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, shared photos of their son with Fox 40 in Sacramento to show his sweet demeanor, the news station said. The family, from Davis, is also fighting back at Guiding Hands, which a preliminary investigation by the state shows violated multiple rules in its handling of the boy.  Max was allegedly placed in a prone restraint, face-down on the floor, Nov. 28 after school officials said he became violent. The El Dorado Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident, said in a news release that Max was 6 feet tall and weighed about 280 pounds.  An attorney for Max’s family, Seth Goldstein, disputed the claims of the boy’s height and weight, saying that Max was 5 feet, 4 inches tall. At most, he weighed 230 pounds, Goldstein said. “He was not an unmanageable child in any sense of that term, in terms of that size,” Goldstein told The Sacramento Bee.  The Bee previously reported that sources said Max was held in the prone restraint position for about an hour before he became unresponsive.  “A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived,” a news release from the Sheriff’s Office said. “The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis (Medical Center).” Max died two days later.  “At this time, there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent,” investigators said in the release. Cherilyn Caler, whose own 13-year-old son witnessed the restraint used on Max, said the teacher and an aide restrained the boy, who had been a student there for just a few months, because he kicked a wall, the Bee reported. A second parent who asked to remain anonymous backed Caler’s account.  Caler told the newspaper her son, who is also on the autism spectrum, told her Max became unresponsive, at which point those restraining him told him to stop pretending to be asleep. After about 30 minutes, they realized he wasn’t pretending, she said. Caler has since removed her son from the school, the Bee reported.  >> Related story: Teen with autism dies after being restrained at school A Dec. 5 letter from the California Department of Education states that staff members at Guiding Hills violated multiple state rules when trying to get Max under control. The Department of Education’s own preliminary investigation found that the staff used an emergency intervention to stop predictable, or non-emergency, behavior. It also found that an emergency intervention was used as a substitute for Max’s behavioral intervention plan, or BIP, which is designed to change, replace, modify or eliminate a targeted behavior. The intervention was also used for longer than necessary and it was used with an amount of force that was “not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.” The school staff’s actions also failed to take into account Max’s individualized education program, or IEP, which required specific intervention strategies that were not used, the letter says.  Guiding Hands School’s certification has been suspended until the end of 2019, according to the letter. The school can continue to serve current students but cannot accept new pupils.  “The (California Department of Education) is continuing to conduct its investigation into the actions of (Guiding Hands),” the letter reads. It is likely required corrective actions will be issued by the CDE resulting from this investigation.” All corrective actions would have to be completed for the school to regain its certification. Caler is not the only parent who has pulled their child out of Guiding Hands, which had an enrollment of 137 this school year, according to state records.  Melissa Lasater told Fox 40 that she was appalled at how the school handled Max’s death.  “When they were bringing the chaplains from class to class, instead of just letting the chaplains say, ‘We’re here for you,’ the staff also shared their message: ‘Just so you know, we didn’t kill anyone,’” Lasater told the news station.  Lasater said her own 13-year-old son, who knew Max, did not realize his classmate died until his death made the news about a week later.  “He immediately started to, like, cry and started to process, like, ‘Who’s been missing the last few days, who could it be?’” Lasater said. “And then his face just dropped and he’s, like, ‘Mom, mom, it was Max. They killed Max.’ And then he was petrified.” Lasater said the school had used restraints on her son in the past, sometimes leaving him with bruises. In the wake of Max’s death, she initially revoked her permission for the school to use any force on her son.  Ultimately, she chose to pull him from the school. “They’re all still there with the same staff, who are trained in the same techniques, who are going to use them the same way. They use them as punishment,” Lasater told Fox 40. Other parents and students tell stories of physical restraint being used as punishment.  Josh Greenfield, 23, was a student at Guiding Hands until 2013, the Bee reported. Greenfield told the newspaper he was restrained twice during his time there and found the experiences frightening.  The restraints were excessive and were done for dubious reasons, according to the former student. He told the Bee he was once placed in a prone restraint because he ignored a teacher calling his name in a hallway.  Melanie Stark, of Elk Grove, pulled her 9-year-old son from Guiding Hands Thursday, the Bee reported. She also has a pending complaint with the Department of Education regarding the use of restraints in the school.  Stark said her son was restrained on his first day at the school in September. She said a teacher’s aide wrapped her arms and legs around the boy so he could not get up from his desk.  The reasoning was to keep him seated and guide him through the activity he was working on, she said.  “That was too aggressive and it was happening about four times a week,” Stark told the Bee.  Rebecca St. Clair, of Folsom, told the newspaper her son was put in a prone restraint two years ago. In that incident, staff members rolled him inside a gym mat and put their weight on the mat to keep him still.  Despite being upset by the incident, it was not until the week before Max’s death, when she personally witnessed a student being rolled inside a mat that she realized how “alarming and unsettling” the practice is, the Bee reported.  “I tried to assure myself that this was based on trust. I really trusted the teachers,” St. Clair told the newspaper. “That trust has been broken. I thought they were so careful. I feel so wrong about that now.” Lasater and others protested outside the California Department of Education Monday, demanding that Guiding Hands be shut down. One of those protesting was Katie Kaufman, a former student there.  According to CBS Sacramento, Kaufman said she also was restrained multiple times at the school. “They always use the one where you throw the person on the floor in a body slam,” Kaufman told the news station. “It was a matter of time. Someone dies, and they finally start listening.”
  • According to court documents filed on Friday by New York prosecutors and the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, President Donald Trump not only knew about hush money being paid to two women whom he allegedly had affairs with but also directed his personal attorney to pay the women for their silence. The allegations implicating Trump surfaced last week in sentencing recommendations filed in criminal cases against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. The filings indicated that Mueller and prosecutors from the Southern District of New York believe that Trump was an accomplice in the payments to the two women, payments that are felony violations of federal election laws. >>Who is Michael Cohen, personal attorney for Donald Trump? How can money spent to quiet someone rise to the level of a federal felony? Here’s a look at the two portions of Friday’s filings that implicate Trump in unlawful activity. What do the filings in the Cohen case say? Prosecutors are alleging that violations of federal campaign finance law took place when Cohen made payments to silence porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both women alleged they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied their claims. According to prosecutors: Cohen negotiated an agreement with American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, to pay McDougal $150,000 to keep quiet about an alleged 10-month relationship with Trump. According to the plea, McDougal transferred the rights to her story to the Enquirer which did not publish the story. Cohen paid AMI to compensate the company for payments made to McDougal.  Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels, also over an alleged affair with Trump, was made with funds drawn on a home equity line of credit he took out. The plea said Cohen paid Daniels “by making and causing to be made an expenditure, in cooperation, consultation, and concert with, and at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign (identified as Trump, though not by name) … to ensure that she not publicize damaging allegation before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election.' Cohen said during the plea that he “participated in this conduct for the principal purpose” of influencing an election and did it at the “direction of a candidate for federal office.”  What are the violations? The crimes include a charge of making a campaign contribution in excess of the $2,700 individual limit set by federal campaign law and unlawful corporate contributions. The violation of the $2,700 contribution limit came when Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Trump. The unlawful corporate contribution charge refers to Cohen’s promise to pay the parent company of the National Enquirer which purchased the rights to McDougal’s story of an affair with Trump but never published it. How does money paid to keep someone quiet become a campaign contribution? Under federal campaign finance law, individual campaign contributions are limited to $2,700 per individual, or $5,400 for a couple, for each election cycle. Federal law bars direct corporate contributions to federal candidates. The money paid to Daniels – $130,000 – was moved through a limited-liability company called Essential Consultants. Cohen created the company a few weeks before the election. The payment to Daniels was a campaign contribution, according to Cohen, who said in court that when he paid Daniels off, he was acting on behalf of the campaign with the aim of helping Trump win the presidency. In McDougal’s case, Cohen paid AMI to compensate the company for payments made to McDougal.  Cohen testified at his August plea hearing  that he orchestrated payments to McDougal and made payments to Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election so that the affairs would not become public, and that he did so “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” He also said Trump knew about the payments. Both of those payments far exceed the $2,700 limit. Trump, on the other hand, said the payments were “simple private transactions” not campaign contributions, and that the payments were meant to spare his family embarrassment, not influence an election. If Trump were to be charged, prosecutors would have to prove that he knew certain campaign finance laws prohibited what he was doing and that he then willfully violated those laws. Cohen originally said he acted on his own and had not been reimbursed by the Trump Organization, or by the campaign for the payments. He recanted that statement in August, saying he was reimbursed for the payments by Trump who had directed him to make them. “I used a company under my control to make the payment (to Daniels)” Cohen told the judge, adding that “the monies used were later repaid by the candidate.”  What does the law say about this case? What we know is that prosecutors believe Trump directed Cohen to violate campaign finance laws. What we don’t know is if Trump knowingly violated the law. According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, while individuals are limited to making donations of $2,700 to presidential candidates, candidates can use or loan their personal funds for campaign use. While those contributions are not subject to limits, they must be reported on campaign finance forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Companies may not make campaign contributions, and it is a felony to conspire to make a campaign contribution that exceeds $25,000. What is the statute of limitations for these crimes? For the violations cited in the filings, there is a five-year statute of limitations. Will Trump be charged? Trump will not likely be charged with crimes while he is a sitting president.Legal opinions that have directed Justice Department procedure say a sitting president will not be indicted because criminal charges would undermine the job he or she does. A president could be charged after he leaves office as long as the statute of limitations on the crimes the person is alleged to have committed have not expired. Will he be impeached? Bringing articles of impeachment and impeaching a president are two different things. The U.S. House drafts articles of impeachment, but the U.S. Senate, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding, holds a trial to examine the charges and votes on whether a president is impeached. It requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate for impeachment. It is possible that the House could start impeachment proceedings against Trump. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, has suggested that Trump’s actions, according to what was revealed in the filings, would rise to the level of an impeachable offense. “Until now, you had two different charges, allegations, whatever you want to call them,” Nadler of New York, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Saturday. “One was collusion with the Russians. One was obstruction of justice and all that entails. And now you have a third — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.” The House Judiciary Committee would be the committee that would draft impeachment charges against Trump if it came to that. What does the White House say?  The White House said Friday's news has nothing to do with them. Trump said “thank you” in a tweet on Friday, saying he had been exonerated concerning campaign finance.
  • Mayport-based USS Fort McHenry is leaving for a seven-month deployment in support of maritime security operations in Europe and the Middle East.  A spokesperson for Naval Station Mayport says more than 4,500 Sailors and Marines serving in the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will deploy next week.  The 22nd MEU is comprised of approximately 2,500 Marines and Sailors.  It includes a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element.  The Kearsarge ARG consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 2 and FST 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Amphibious Squadron 6.
  • People in the Southeast were woken up by an earthquake early Wednesday.  >> Visit WSBTV.com for complete coverage of this developing story The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake happened about 4:15 a.m. near Decatur, Tennessee. It had a magnitude of 4.4. A 3.3-magnitude aftershock followed happened about 15 minutes later. Atlanta’s WSB-TV received dozens of phone calls in the minutes following the quake. >> Read more trending news  The earthquake happened along the New Madrid Fault Line, which is along the Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi state lines.  The earthquake was the second strongest on record in east Tennessee, according to the USGS. The strongest was a magnitude 4.7 near Maryville in 1973. There have been several small earthquakes in northwest Georgia over the past few years, including a 1.9-magnitude quake near Villanow, in Walker County, in August.  A 2.7-magnitude quake was reported in Catoosa County, near Fort Oglethorpe, in January, and a 2.3 hit Trion, in Chattooga County, in November 2017. In July 2017, a 2.2-magnitude quake was registered just north of LaFayette in Walker County.

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