Thursday, February 22, 2018

Georgetown PD Looking to Identify Suspect

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Image courtesy Georgetown PD

Image courtesy Georgetown PD

Georgetown Police need your help to identify a suspect involved in an investigation in the unlawful use of a credit card.   If you can identify the suspect – contact Georgetown Police or Crime Stoppers.

 


 

Smoke bomb intended to scare skunks sets house on fire

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A Detroit-area man’s idea to use a smoke bomb to rid the crawlspace in his home of skunks blew up in smoke – literally.

Firefighters responded to a call Monday morning to find the flames had spread from the crawlspace to the first floor of the house, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The Ferndale, Mich., man, who was not identified by the paper, told authorities he waited 15 minutes after the fire broke out to call 911.

The fire continued to spread throughout the house, resulting in what Sullivan described as a “complete loss,” with the occupant losing most of his belongings.

No injuries were reported other than one firefighter suffering a sprain, the paper reported.

As for the skunks, Sullivan told the paper no carcasses were found at the scene.

Click here for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Delta passengers endure nearly 12-hour delay before flight is canceled: report

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A Delta airliner loaded with passengers at Kansas City International Airport was delayed nearly 12 hours Tuesday because of a raging ice storm — then the flight was canceled, according to local reports.

One passenger sat on the plane, bound for Los Angeles, from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m., the Kansas City Star reported.

“It was a s— show,” the woman, Ann Ngo, told the paper, adding that she was able to finally get on an outbound flight the next evening. Ngo said she received a $100 voucher from Delta for her trouble.

Another passenger tweeted that “the gross incompetence associated with flight #2195 defies all logic.”

A Delta spokesperson said in a statement that “the significant amount of ice accumulation” on its airplanes “drove prolonged de-icing time.” Airlines must be de-iced using a special fluid to fly safely.

But an airport official told the Star that Delta was the only airline that had significant delays due to the weather — and noted that de-icing planes is the responsibility of airlines, not airport officials.

“The gross incompetence associated with flight #2195 defies all logic.”

– Delta passenger Matt Montgomery

A passenger suggested on Twitter that the flight was eventually canceled because the flight crew exceeded its maximum working hours during the delay.

The incident occured despite a recently revived deal between American Airlines and Delta permitting the airlines to put passengers on each other’s planes when travelers are stranded by disruptions such as winter storms and computer outages.

The Delta flight reportedly made several trips to and from the gate, and the airline allowed passengers to leave the plane periodically.

Because of an Obama-era regulation that prescribes fines for airlines that leave passengers stranded onboard planes, those occassional respites from the tarmac may have saved Delta a significant amount of money.

The Transportation Department has set a three-hour limit for ground delays involving domestic flights and four hours for international flights, subject to some limited exceptions.

Airlines that violate the rule can be fined $27,500 per passenger. 

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Court considers banning diesel cars in German cities

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A German court is considering whether cities should ban diesel cars to lower air pollution, a move that could have drastic consequences for the country’s auto industry.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is hearing an appeal Thursday by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars were effective and should be considered.

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A decision could be issued later in the day.

The original court cases were brought by environmental groups who say excessive air pollution levels in dozens of German cities are largely caused by diesel cars. They accuse the government of putting automakers’ interests before citizens’ health.

German automaker Volkswagen was found three years ago to have used in-car software to cheat on U.S. emissions tests, resulting in large fines.

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Stocks point lower on interest rate hike jitters

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Procession, funeral planned for the Rev. Billy Graham

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Following his death Wednesday at age 99, tributes poured in from around the world for the Rev. Billy Graham – and plans were announced for the funeral of the man known as “America’s Pastor.”

Graham’s body was moved from his home in Montreat, N.C., to Asheville, where a funeral home was handling the arrangements.

The body will be taken from Asheville to Charlotte on Saturday in a procession expected to take 3 ½ hours and ending at the Billy Graham Museum and Library, said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

It will lie in repose Monday and Tuesday in the Charlotte house where Graham grew up, which was moved from its original location to the grounds of the Graham library.

A private funeral for Graham will be held Friday, March 2, in a tent at the library site and he will be buried next to his wife there, DeMoss said. Ruth Graham, to whom the reverend was married more than 60 years, died at age 87 in 2007.

Invitations to the funeral will be extended to President Donald Trump and former presidents, DeMoss said.

The president tweeted condolences Wednesday, soon after the news of Graham’s death was reported.

“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” the president wrote. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

Former President Barack Obama said Graham “gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”

Graham was a counselor to U.S. presidents of both parties, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton attended.

More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the U.S. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians and threw a lifeline to believers in the communist bloc.

A tall, striking man with thick, swept-back hair, stark blue eyes and a firm jaw, Graham was a commanding presence in the pulpit, with a powerful baritone voice.

“The Bible says,” was his catchphrase. His unquestioning belief in Scripture turned the Gospel into a “rapier” in his hands, he said.

Graham reached multitudes around the globe through public appearances and his pioneering use of prime-time telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic films and satellite TV hookups.

By his final crusade in 2005 in New York City, he had preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide. No evangelist is expected to have his level of influence again.

“William Franklin Graham Jr. can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did,” said William Martin, author of the Graham biography “A Prophet With Honor.”

Graham had suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.

DeMoss said Graham spent his final months in and out of consciousness. He said Graham didn’t take any phone calls or entertain guests.

Graham died at 7:46 a.m. Wednesday at his home, where only an attending nurse was present, DeMoss said.

Both the nurse and Graham’s longtime personal physician, Dr. Lucian Rice, who arrived about 20 minutes later, said it was “a peaceful passing,” DeMoss said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

France plays catch-up coping with radicalized prisoners

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Radicalized inmates in the general prison population can quickly start influencing others and endanger prison staff. It’s a problem that has dogged French authorities for years and is set to grow more acute as foreign fighters return to France amid the collapse of the Islamic State group.

More citizens from France have traveled to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq than from any other European country, and the United States is urging allied nations to claim their nationals held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces because facilities there are filling up.

Making room for more returnees in French prisons, some built in the 19th century, could put new strains on the prison system — and be a tight squeeze. By December 2017, some prisons were over capacity by 220 percent, according to the Justice Ministry.

Afghan official: Taliban attack local police, killing 8

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An Afghan official says Taliban fighters have attacked a police security post in central Ghazni province, killing eight local police.

Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said Thursday the attack happened the previous night. He said the insurgents attacked from four sides using heavy weapons, including artillery, killing eight police and wounding another in a two-hour attack.

Government reinforcement reached the area too late to stop the attack, Noori said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, and said nine local police were killed and one other captured in the attack

Stock futures fall on interest rate hike jitters

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Snap Wants to Copy One of Its Biggest Investors

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Tencent (NASDAQOTH: TCEHY) has been an investor in Snap (NYSE: SNAP) since 2013, when it was still going by Snapchat. The Chinese company behind WeChat upped its stake significantly at the end of last year. Snap disclosed that Tencent had taken about a 12% share of the company.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has long regarded Tencent as a model worth emulating and expanded on that idea at a recent investors conference. “Tencent very early on understood the power of communication because it drives frequency,” he said. “And if you can be the service that’s most frequently used on someone’s phone, you’re able to develop a lot of other ancillary businesses around that engagement.”

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WeChat has turned into something of a Swiss army knife in China, supporting online and in-store payments, a feed of photos, videos, and posts from friends, and the ability to hail a taxi, all on top of its core messaging capabilities. It also feeds Tencent’s growing gaming, video, and music businesses. Tencent generated nearly $10 billion in revenue in the third quarter thanks to its growing presence on people’s smartphones.

The most frequently used app

WeChat and Snapchat are both dominant forces on smartphones in their most popular markets.

Chinese users spend well over 60 minutes per day using WeChat and average over 10 sessions per day. Leaked data from Snapchat shows users averaged around 34 minutes per day last summer. Younger users spent more time — Spiegel says users under 25 spend 40 minutes per day — and they also open the app more often at a rate of 20 times per day versus 12 times for users over 25.

That frequency of use is extremely enviable. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), for example, might have users spending a bit more time in its flagship app, an average of 40 minutes in the U.S., but users only average 5 or 6 sessions per day. Facebook’s messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp, likely see much higher frequency.

Following in the footsteps of Tencent

Snapchat has already taken some steps that clearly emulate Tencent’s efforts to monetize a communication service.

WeChat Pay is a primary source of payment for many consumers in China. In 2014, Snap experimented with a way to send money to friends called Snapcash. The initiative failed to catch on, but no other messaging service — including Facebook’s — has been able to emulate Tencent’s success in payments, either.

Tencent also launched a video platform in 2011 as an offshoot of its popular QQ online portal. Snap launched Discover in 2015 as a platform for professional content publishers to reach its audience. Ads in Discover were one of Snap’s earliest sources of revenue, and it paid out $100 million in revenue-sharing payments last year.

WeChat incorporated a feed — Moments — in 2013. It clearly drew a lot of inspiration from Facebook, but WeChat showed a feed can be part of a messaging app. Snapchat drew from that trend for its redesign, which features an algorithm-sorted feed of content from friends, mixing direct messages and the stories format.

WeChat doesn’t have to deal with Facebook

Snapchat remains a relatively small platform; its 187 million daily users is dwarfed by WeChat’s 902 million daily users. Even bigger are Facebook’s WhatsApp (1.5 billion MAUs) and Messenger (1.3 billion MAUs).

That makes Facebook a major threat to Snap, one Tencent doesn’t have to worry about because Facebook doesn’t operate in China. Facebook has already had a major impact on Snap’s operations by copying the Stories format in Instagram, and later expanding it to other apps. With hundreds of millions of users already using its apps, Facebook’s ability to replicate features from Snapchat makes it hard for Snapchat to attract new users.

That said, the users Snapchat does have are highly engaged, which is, as Spiegel points out, very valuable. If Snapchat can expand like Tencent has, it could be able to generate a lot of revenue from its users. Tencent is generating around $10 billion per quarter, but it’s worth remembering that most of its users are in China, where user monetization levels are well below North America and Western Europe — which are the source of most of Snapchat’s users.

The question for investors is, can Snapchat execute better and faster than Facebook? So far, it hasn’t proven that’s the case.

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Asian stocks lower after Fed report renews bond yield fears

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Most Asian stock indexes fell Thursday, tracking Wall Street’s decline after the latest Fed report rekindled fears about inflation and rising bond yields.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index sank 1.1 percent to 21,736.44 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.6 percent to 2,414.28. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.9 percent to 31,138.06 but the Shanghai Composite jumped 2.0 percent to 3,262.03, fueled by pent-up demand from investors in mainland China, where markets reopened after a weeklong holiday. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 edged up 0.1 percent to 5,950.90. Taiwan’s benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.

MEETING MINUTES: The Federal Reserve’s minutes from its most recent policy meeting indicated bullish sentiment among policymakers about the outlook for U.S. and global economic growth, reinforcing expectations for further interest rate rises this year. Wall Street initially welcomed the report but soon enough U.S. Treasury yields spiked to their highest level in four years, snuffing out the market rally in a sign of renewed worries about rising inflation. Higher yields hurt stock prices by making bonds more attractive than equities.

MARKET VIEW: “The Fed minutes for the January meeting seem to have set off another (so far) minor explosion in markets,” Michael Every, Asia strategist at Rabobank, said in a commentary.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.5 percent to 2,701.33. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.7 percent to 24,797.78. The Nasdaq gave up 0.2 percent to 7,218.23.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 52 cents to $61.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 11 cents to settle at $61.68 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 39 cents to $65.03 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 107.42 yen from 107.77 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.2275 from $1.2284.

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US women’s hockey defeats Canada in shootout to win Olympic gold

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The United States women’s hockey team on Thursday defeated Canada 3-2 after a dramatic shootout to win a gold. 

The victory marks the U.S. team’s first gold since 1998.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the first extra round of the first shootout tiebreaker to cap off the victory.

Maddie Rooney stopped Meghan Agosta on her second try of Thursday’s shootout to clinch it. Rooney stopped 29 shots in regulation and the 20-minute overtime. Shannon Szabados made 39 saves for Canada, which had won four straight Olympic gold medals.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin scored in regulation for Canada.

The Americans won the inaugural women’s gold medal in 1998, but had not beaten Canada in the Olympics since.

Hilary Knight and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Jocelyne’s twin sister, scored the American goals in regulation.

It was 2-2 after three periods and 2-2 through five shooters in the tie-breaker.

It was the second straight overtime in the gold medal game for these two teams, but the first shootout in Olympic women’s hockey history. The men have done it, most recently when Sweden beat Canada in 1994.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

African asylum seekers facing expulsion have embraced Israel

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Even as he faces a potential deportation from Israel, 30-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker Johny Goytiom Kafl brims with satisfaction as he looks out upon thousands of fellow protesters rallying against the impending expulsions, all while peacefully secured by police.

It’s such displays of civil action that he most admires about his adoptive home of the past nine years since he escaped one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, and then faced torture, kidnapping and abuse during his exodus throughout Africa.

“You are treated like a human being in Israel,” he said in fluent Hebrew. “Here I am not afraid. In Eritrea, I was afraid.”

Kafl, along with tens of thousands of other Africans, now fear their stay in the Holy Land is coming to an abrupt end. Israel has given many of them until April 1 to leave for an unnamed African destination — known to be Rwanda — in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Otherwise, they face open-ended incarceration.

Israel considers the vast majority of the nearly 40,000 migrants to be job seekers and says it has no legal obligation to keep them. The Africans, nearly all from dictatorial Eritrea and war-torn Sudan, say they fled for their lives and face renewed danger if they return.

As the world grapples with the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the issue has struck a raw nerve in Israel — established on the heels of the Holocaust.

Critics at home and in the Jewish American community have called the government’s proposed response unethical and a stain on Israel’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.

The optics of black asylum seekers accusing the country of racism has turned into a public relations liability for Israel, and groups of Israeli doctors, academics, poets, Holocaust survivors, rabbis and pilots have all appealed to halt the plan. But the government remains steadfast, bristling at what it considers cynical comparisons to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.

The Africans started moving toward Israel in 2005 after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a refugee demonstration and word spread of safety and job opportunities in Israel. Tens of thousands crossed the porous desert border before Israel completed a barrier in 2012 that stopped the influx.

But Israel has struggled with what to do with those already in the country, alternating between plans to deport them and offering them menial jobs in hotels and local municipalities.

Kafl, like many of his compatriots, fled Eritrea to escape its lifelong military conscription in slavery-like conditions and fears death if he returns.

He has experienced both sides of Israel. His asylum request is still pending, and he has been locked up in a massive detention center in the remote southern desert. But he is also deeply grateful to the many Israelis who welcomed him and sympathized with his plight. He said he hopes to one day return the favor if the Eritrean regime is ultimately toppled.

“I knocked on the door of the country and said ‘save me.’ I will never forget the soldier who said ‘welcome,’ gave me food and called for a doctor. I got his kind of respect in Israel, not in Eritrea,” he said.

After the initial warm welcome, however, many turned against the migrants, particularly in the working class neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv, which have become known as “Little Africa.”

“They are abusing our democracy to live off our backs,” said Shefi Paz, who leads the local residents’ opposition. “They’ve ruined our community and ruined our lives.”

The government, dominated by nationalist parties, has denounced their prolonged stay and recently voted to begin deporting them to African countries with which they have reached secret agreements. They are believed to be Rwanda and Uganda, close allies of Israel, though they both deny any deal exists.

The government says it is going out of its way to accommodate humanitarian concerns. Women, children and families, for example, are exempt from the deportation order, as are those who escaped the genocide in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. It says it is expediting its refugee vetting process, and notes the Supreme Court has ruled the arrangement is legal and does not imperil those dispatched.

But that’s not what the migrants and their backers contend.

Sigal Rozen, of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants advocacy group, said Israel’s processing has been disingenuous, noting that of the 15,000 African refugee status requests, only 11 have been approved.

She said the 4,000 migrants who accepted previous offers to go to Rwanda did not find refuge there. Nearly all had their travel papers seized and money taken and were then pushed into neighboring Uganda to embark upon a second refugee ordeal.

Unable to return home, they have been forced to traverse though Africa, where many reported being tortured, raped and starved in Libya en route to Europe. An Eritrean Christian who had left Israel was beheaded on a Libyan beach by the Islamic State group in 2015.

“How can Israel know if these people are genuine refugees if they didn’t check their asylum requests?” said Rozen. “As Jews, we are morally obliged to protect these people from the horrible things that they ran away from.”

At a parliamentary hearing Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Israel had no obligation toward what she called job seekers who imposed “unacceptable migrant terror that includes violence and sexual harassment” toward the people of south Tel Aviv.

Monim Haroon said it hurt to hear Israel refer to him as an infiltrator. Now a 28-year-old university student in Jerusalem, he fled Darfur five years ago and has lost family members in the genocide.

“I escaped my country because I wanted to stay alive and to say that I am just a migrant worker, that is very painful to me,” he said at a demonstration outside the Rwandan Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Lior Birger, a researcher who published a recent study of 19 migrants who voluntarily left Israel and managed to reach Europe, said Israel’s promises were not being kept. One Eritrean testified to being extorted in a Sudanese prison and then beaten in a Libyan torture camp and shoved into a small room with 800 people. Another said he watched his wife drown in the Mediterranean and later tried to kill himself. She said everyone had a uniform message: “Better a prison in Israel than dying on the way.”

A recent poll by the respected Israel Democracy Institute found two-thirds of the Jewish public agreed with the planned expulsions. The migrants’ best hope may be the government’s lack of preparation. Prison authorities are skeptical they will be able to process the expected 15,000 to 20,000 to be jailed.

For many of the Africans, there is no good choice.

“I don’t care about the money and I never even planned to reach Israel. I was just looking for a safe area,” said Halofom Sultan, 37, who escaped Eritrea seven years ago and has been separated from his wife and two children since. “I hope there will be a change in my country and I can go back. Otherwise, I don’t know.”

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Trump on preventing mass shootings: 'We're going to get it done'

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday the administration is going to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and “put a strong emphasis on mental health,” as he promised students and families “we are going to get it done.”

The president, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hosted students, teachers and families affected by the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting for a “listening session” at the White House on Wednesday, which lasted close to two hours. 

Exactly one week ago, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whom the president described as “a sick guy,” opened fire at the high school and now is charged with killing 17 teachers and students with an AR-15 rifle.

“We are going to be very strong on background checks, and put a very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody,” Trump said at the beginning of the listening session. “We’re going to talk and get it done. It’s been going on too long, too many instances and we’re going to get it done.”

Students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, along with Parkland city Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, attended the White House session, along with members of Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization based in Newtown, Conn., and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Students from Friendship Public Charter School, Parkmont, and Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C., also attended.

Parkland Student Body President Julia Cordover opened the session with emotional remarks for the group.

“I’m a survivor. I want you all to emphasize the point that I survived,” Cordover said. “I was lucky enough to come home from school and it is very scary to know that a lot of people did not have the opportunity to be here.”

Cordover thanked the president for addressing bump stocks earlier in the week. 

The president directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create new regulations to ban firearm modifiers, including the “bump stock” used in the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017.

A memo released by the White House earlier this week directed the DOJ to propose a rule “banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.”

The president asked for suggestions to prevent school shootings, leaving the floor open to parents and teachers. 

A parent from Parkland High School suggested that a select few teachers, administrators, or other school employees volunteer to become a designated “undercover police officer,” to manage a potential tragedy prior to the arrival of first responders.

“If a tragedy strikes, can we wait for first responders to get to the campus minutes later?” the parent said. “The challenge becomes, once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible.”

The president said the administration would look “very strongly” at the option for “concealed carry” at schools, but acknowledged that “a lot of people will be opposed to it.”

“Concealed carry only works for people that are very adept at carrying a gun,” Trump said. “Where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them, go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun free zone.”

Trump added: “A gun-free zone to a maniac, they’re all cowards, it’s ‘let’s go in and attack because bullets aren’t coming at us.’”

The president said that an attack lasts, on average “three minutes.”

“It takes five to eight minutes for first responders. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end [the attack],” Trump said. “We are looking at that very strongly. A lot of people will be opposed to it. A lot of people are gonna like it.”

Trump suggested having “20 percent of your teaching force” representing the “type of talent” capable of concealed carry. Trump also floated the idea to add security, like former “marines, people who left the Air Force” to be “spread evenly throughout the school.”

The president has also signaled a willingness to raise the minimum age for purchasing certain firearms in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland.

A White House source told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump is open to a number of measures to address mass shootings, including a rise in the minimum age for buying firearms.

Under current federal law, licensed firearm dealers cannot sell handguns to people under 21 and cannot sell long guns to people under 18, according to the Giffords Law Center, which tracks gun laws and advocates for more restrictions. Some states already impose laws with tighter minimum age requirements.

The National Rifle Association quickly rejected any talk of raising the age for buying long guns to 21.

“Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,” the group said in a statement.

It is unclear, however, whether Trump will push for a change in federal law, or encourage a change at the state level.

The president has expressed support for the Second Amendment and said he’s against reflexive gun control measures that wouldn’t stop tragedies. The NRA endorsed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and has yet to comment on the president’s current stance on gun control.

“Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The listening session, Trump’s openness to tightening age restrictions, and the directive to the Justice Department reflect a different response from the White House than in the aftermath of previous tragedies.

Following the Las Vegas massacre, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that it was “premature to discuss policy when we don’t know all the facts,” and added, “we can have those policy conversations, but today is not the day.”

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott also is slated to meet with students from Parkland Wednesday evening.

“In addition to what we’re going to with background checks, we’re going to go very strong into age of purchase, and very strongly into the mental health aspect of what’s going on,” Trump said. “This person, who was very sick, and people knew he was very sick. We’re also going to look at the institutions, what you do when you find someone like this.” 

He added: “All I can say is we’re fighting hard for you and we will not stop. I grieve for you. There can be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through. Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution.” 

Fox News’ John Roberts and Alex Pappas contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Police: Narcotics officers hit armed man in gunfire exchange

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Authorities say police officers investigating drug activity in Mississippi exchanged gun fire with an armed man, injuring him.

Jackson police Sgt. Roderick Holmes tells news outlets that narcotics officers came into contact with two people, one of whom had a gun, on Wednesday afternoon. Holmes says the officers tried to stop them, and asked the man to drop the weapon several times. The man fired a shot and the officers returned fire.

Police say the yet unidentified man was shot at least twice. It’s unclear how many officers opened fire.

The man is in critical condition at a hospital.

Better Stock: Walmart Inc. (WMT) vs. Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST)

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When it comes to retail, everyone is focused on what Amazon.com is doing and which industry will get disrupted next. That makes it easy to forget the fact that e-commerce still accounts for less than 10% of all retail purchases in the United States.

What accounts for the other 90%? Tons of retailers. But two of the biggest have the stocks that will be going head-to-head in today’s competition: Costco (NASDAQ: COST) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT). Over the last five years, the membership-based model of Costco has helped the company’s stock double the returns of Walmart.

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Will Costco’s outperformance continue? It’s impossible to tell with certainty. But by examining the companies through three distinct lenses, we can get a better idea of which is the better buy at today’s prices.

Sustainable competitive advantage

In the investing world, there’s nothing more important to evaluate than the sustainable competitive advantages of companies that you want to own. These advantages are often referred to as a company’s “moat.”

In the simplest sense, a moat is the special something that keeps customers coming back for more — year after year — while holding the competition at bay for decades.

Both Walmart and Costco benefit from a crucial advantage of economies of scale: By having such a huge number of shoppers globally, with locations spread across North America and the globe, each company can bargain for lower prices from third-party vendors that it can then pass along to consumers.

But because both companies benefit from this, it’s not much of a differentiator.

Costco also benefits from moderately high switching costs. Put simply, it’s tough to find a better deal on food and “stuff” than what you can find at Costco. Membership fees — which run $60 per year for a basic card — made up 106% of the company’s profit. In other words, the core business — minus the membership fees — ran at a loss last year, and it always has.

That’s a tough business model to beat. Under normal circumstances, I would argue that this gives Costco the edge. But recently, Walmart has been able to leverage its physical locations in North America impressively in upping its e-commerce game. Sales from the channel — catalyzed by the acquisition of Jet.com — have given Walmart another avenue for growth. While it seems like that growth may be stalling right now, the sheer number of the company’s physical locations give it an advantage in terms of expanding e-commerce presence and ease of delivery.

Winner = Tie.

Financial fortitude

Next, we have financial fortitude. While most investors in behemoths like Walmart and Costco would like to see excess cash returned to them via share buybacks or dividend payments, there’s something to be said for keeping a boring pile of cash on hand.

That’s because every company, at one point or another, is going to face difficult economic times. Those that have cash on hand can actually get stronger because of it — by buying back shares on the cheap, acquiring disruptive upstarts, or bleeding the competition dry by undercutting prices to gain long-term market share.

Keeping in mind that Walmart is valued at almost four times Costco, here’s how the two stack up.

Relative to their sizes, both companies have comparable free cash flows. But when it comes to the balance sheet, Costco is in a position to benefit more in the case of an economic downturn than Walmart. As such, Costco gets the nod here.

Winner = Costco.

Valuation

Finally, we have valuation. Unfortunately, there’s no one metric that will tell us if a company’s stock is cheap or expensive. Instead, I find it best to consult a number of data points in building out a holistic picture.

Both companies have relatively small dividends that are very sustainable and have lots of room for growth. But in terms of earning and free cash flow ratios, Walmart is clearly the cheaper of the two choices.

Winner = Walmart.

My winner is…

So based on these three criteria, we have a tie. Usually, when this is the case, I side with the company with the wider moat. Here again, however, we are stuck: Neither company is an upstart disrupter anymore. And given that their moats are equally wide, I believe that valuation should play an outsized role. Walmart is fairly valued in my opinion, while Costco seems a touch expensive.

My vote goes to Walmart.

10 stocks we like better than WalmartWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now… and Walmart wasn’t one of them! That’s right — they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

*Stock Advisor returns as of February 5, 2018The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Brian Stoffel owns shares of, and the Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends, AMZN. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Why Is Campbell Soup Company (CPB) Stock Down Wednesday?

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What happened

Shares of food and beverage product company Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) fell as much as 7.1% on Wednesday. The stock finished the trading day down about 7%.

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It’s not clear why Campbell stock fell so sharply, but a likely reason could be something that was said during management’s update on its strategy and transformation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) conference on Wednesday morning.

At the conference, which started at 11 a.m. EST and was webcast live on the company’s investor relations website, Campbell CEO Denise Morrison was set to “share her perspective on the consumer and retail environment and discuss the actions Campbell is taking to transform its portfolio,” according to a press release that went live ahead of the discussion.

So what

In addition to providing a broad overview of Campbell’s retail environment and transformation plans, Morrison and Campbell CFO Anthony DiSilvestro were supposed to provide updates on the company’s acquisition of Pacific Foods and its pending acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance, which will be Campbell’s largest acquisition ever.

“With the completion of the Snyder’s-Lance acquisition, Campbell will decisively and definitively shift its portfolio toward faster-growing categories, with snacking representing approximately 46 percent of the company’s annual net sales,” said Campbell’s press release on Wednesday.

Now what

Amid a challenging retail environment for Campbell, including higher costs and heightened competition, the company has struggled to increase sales organically. Organic sales were down 2% year over year in Campbell’s second quarter as Morrison called the period “disappointing,” citing “challenges in U.S. soup and Campbell Fresh.”

To battle top-line headwinds, the company has been implementing a multiyear cost-savings initiative to help drive earnings growth. Fortunately, management said it recently identified an extra $50 million of costs savings it believes it can achieve, increasing its cost-savings target from $450 million to $500 million by fiscal 2020. This is another topic Morrison and DiSilvestro discussed further on Wednesday, according to the press release.

10 stocks we like better than Campbell SoupWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now… and Campbell Soup wasn’t one of them! That’s right — they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

*Stock Advisor returns as of February 5, 2018

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Blinded investigator to Indonesia graft fighters: Stay brave

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An anti-corruption investigator blinded by an acid attack is urging graft fighters to “stay brave” as he returns to Indonesia after months of medical treatment.

Activists said they would dress in white to greet Novel Baswedan when he arrives Thursday at the Corruption Eradication Commission in Jakarta.

Baswedan was leading a probe into a scandal that has implicated high-profile Indonesian politicians when he was attacked in April last year as he left dawn prayers.

Baswedan said in a video posted online: “Let’s stay focused, stay brave. Don’t be afraid, don’t hesitate, stay strong.”

He said his right eye is now “quite stable” but still cannot see from his left eye.

Inmate who raped, killed pregnant woman seeks stay of execution in Texas

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A lawyer representing a death row inmate in Texas scheduled for execution next month has filed an appeal for a stay, claiming prosecutors failed to disclose information from a separate lawsuit.  

Rosendo Rodriguez, 37, a former Marine reservist known as the “Suitcase Killer,” was sentenced to death for brutally raping and murdering a pregnant prostitute at a Lubbock hotel in 2005, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Her body was later found covered in blunt-force wounds and stuffed into a suitcase at the Lubbock city dump.

In 2015 a former employee of the Lubbock medical examiner who was responsible for performing an autopsy of the victim, claimed that the doctor did not do the operation himself. The lawsuit further alleged that the doctor frequently attended to his private consulting practice and in some cases didn’t perform his own autopsies.

According to court papers, the lawsuit was eventually settled for more than $200,000 shortly before a judge set an execution date for Rodriguez.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Seth Kretzer filed an appeal in which he accused the district attorney of failing to disclose information about the suit. Kretzer specifically invoked a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to disclose any evidence that might exonerate the accused.

Matt Powell, a Lubbock County district attorney, said it was “nonsense” that the lawsuit and Rodriguez’s sentencing might have anything to do with each other and contained “absolutely no Brady information.”  

Kretzer said withholding information from the lawsuit was “sufficiently egregious to necessitate a stay of execution.”

Rodriguez’s execution is scheduled for March 27, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 

Book Trump? Interest groups press case at his properties

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Special interests are holding meetings at properties owned by President Donald Trump, putting money in his pockets as they seek to influence his administration.

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An Associated Press analysis of the interest groups that visited Trump properties in the first year of his presidency finds several instances that at least create the appearance of “pay for play.” And lobbying experts say as long as the president fails to divest from his businesses, special interests will take full advantage.

It’s impossible to draw a direct link between where groups seeking to influence the Trump administration hold their events and what they received. Yet never before in American history have such groups had the opportunity to hold an event at a property owned by the president.

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Foreign leaders seek fresh ties with US governors, mayors

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Foreign leaders are looking to cultivate stronger ties with U.S. governors and mayors, an interest that will be on display at this weekend’s meeting of the National Governors Association.

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When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, he won’t be traveling solo.

Turnbull is bringing the most senior Australian political and business delegation ever to visit the United States in a trip aimed at building stronger relationships with America’s governors.

The outreach comes as U.S. governors and mayors have engaged more closely with foreign leaders in the age of Trump’s “America First” policies on climate change and trade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent trip to the U.S. included stops in Illinois and California to meet with state and local leaders.

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Republican Congresswoman criticized over comment on mass murderers

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Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., on Wednesday raised eyebrows when she said in a radio interview that many mass murderers “end up being Democrats.”

Tenney, who was interviewed a week after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was criticized for the comments.

Democrats condemned the first-term Republican’s claims and called for her to apologize.

State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who is her expected Democratic challenger this fall, said her rhetoric is “toxic” and “a new low.”

During an interview with Fred Dicker on his Talk 1300 Radio show “Focus on the State Capitol,” Tenney and the host discussed calls for stricter gun control, The New York Times reported.

“Most gun crimes are occurring in what’s euphemistically called the inner cities involving minorities and they’re the ones the Democrats generally are going to bend over backwards to protect,” Dicker said.

Tenney then responded with, “obviously, there’s a lot of politics in it. And it’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats. But the media doesn’t talk about that either.”

She did not present any evidence to support her claim, USA Today reported.

Tenney’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday.

“While we know the perpetrators of these atrocities have a wide variety of political views, my comments are in response to a question about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime,” she said. “I will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists.”

Evan Lukaske, spokesman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement in response to Tenney’s comments Wednesday.

“Once again Congresswoman Tenney has demonstrated how completely unfit she is to serve in Congress,” Lukaske said. “Tenney’s comments are unhinged, shameful and disgusting, and show why voters will replace her next November.”

Tenney was first elected in 2016, and her district covers a large area of central New York, including Binghamton, Utica and Rome.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

North Korean cheerleader accidentally claps for the Americans, report says

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Japanese news cameras at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang caught a North Korean cheerleader ‘accidentally’ clapping for two American figure skaters during last Thursday’s competition, The Daily Mail reported.  

The ‘clapping’ cheerleader was flanked by other members of the North Korean cheer squad as they watched the pair skating short program. The ‘army of beautifies’ cheered in unison and waved the North Korean flag for their own figure skaters, Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sok.

But the girls became stoic when American skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim took the ice. The lone cheerleader unwittingly clapped for the American skaters with a half-smile. A fellow cheerleader to her left is seen elbowing her and quiet muttering something.

The lone cheerleader then drops her hands to her lap and loses the smile.

The North Korean skating duo were the only North Koreans to qualify for the competition and finished 13th out of 16 teams.

The squads are usually made up of young women, often students or government workers from Pyongyang, selected for their looks, musical skills and family standing.

At their first appearance at a competition, an ice hockey game featuring the joint North-South women’s team, they started off with a popular North Korean song called “Happy to Meet You.”

That had been a matter of concern.

Pretty much every song performed in public in the North is political (as is everything else; that’s what totalitarianism means, after all), and even tunes that might sound like simple love songs are almost always devoted to Kim Jong Un or one of his predecessors.

In a later game, one squad held up masks of a handsome young man, which some observers speculated was Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung. That would have clearly run afoul of organizers’ expectations. Officials quickly denied the rumors, though it remains unclear who the mystery man was intended to be.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Los Angeles sheriff's deputy accused of forcing inmates to engage in sex acts

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A veteran Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting six female inmates at the Century Regional Detention Facility last year, prosecutors said.

In one incident, Giancarlo Scotti, 31, allegedly ordered two female inmates to perform oral sex on him, before having sex with them in the showers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The assaults occurred between March and September of last year, prosecutors said. Scotti, a 10-year veteran, was first arrested in September shortly after an inmate reported him, then posted bail.

He was arrested again Wednesday, with prosecutors seeking him held on $400,000 bail. Scotti is accused of six felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of sexual activity with a detainee in a detention facility, the Times reported.

The deputy’s attorney told the Times that Scotti “never sexually assaulted anybody.”

Scotti faces approximately seven years in prison if convicted.

“How could one male guard exploit so many women and not be caught in the act?”

– Justin Sterling, attorney representing alleged victim

At least two inmates filed a lawsuit related to his conduct in November, the Times reported.

“Inmates in jail are under constant surveillance — cameras are everywhere — how could one male guard exploit so many women and not be caught in the act?” Justin Sterling, an attorney representing one of Scotti’s alleged victims, said in a statement.

“Our clients desperately want justice,” Sterling added. “Holding Deputy Scotti criminally responsible for his actions is one major step in that direction.”

In a news conference last year announcing Scotti’s arrest, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said there were no indications that other officers were involved.

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Oversight committee wants to look at Pruitt's travel records

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A Republican-led congressional committee is demanding records related to premium-class flights taken by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

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House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy issued a letter to Pruitt this week seeking an accounting of all flights taken by the EPA administrator over the last year and whether the ticket was coach, business or first class. Pruitt defended his use of premium-class airfare in media interviews earlier this month, saying security concerns were raised after unpleasant interactions with other passengers.

The South Carolina Republican’s letter sent Tuesday specifically cites the evolving explanations of EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox, who initially told reporters that Pruitt had a “blanket waiver” to fly first class before then saying separate waiver had been granted by ethics officials for each flight. Federal employees are typically supposed to fly coach, and travel rules such bar blanket waivers.

“We will respond to Chairman Gowdy through the proper channel,” Wilcox said Wednesday.

Pruitt, the former GOP attorney general of Oklahoma, has been under increasing scrutiny for his jet setting since his appointment by President Donald Trump last year. Records show Pruitt’s airfare is often several times more expensive than that of aides booked on the same flights.

Gowdy’s letter says the requested records are to be provided to his committee by March 6.

“Federal regulations require government travelers to obtain approval or authorization from their agency to use accommodations other than coach-class when traveling on official business,” Gowdy wrote. “Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs.”

Pruitt said earlier this month he had some “incidents” on flights that necessitated his need for first-class seats. EPA has refused requests from The Associated Press to provide details of those incidents.

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” Pruitt said in an interview with a New Hampshire newspaper. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”

Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail, even inside the agency’s secured headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” inside his office to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices.

Pruitt has denied he played any role in purchasing the premium-class tickets, saying his chief of staff and EPA security had made those decisions.

Federal regulations allow government travelers to fly business class or first class when no cheaper options are “reasonably available” or if there are exceptional security circumstances. However, past federal audits have found that those rules have been routinely violated by high-ranking government officials under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Pruitt’s frequent government-funded travel, which records show has often included weekend layovers in his home state of Oklahoma, is already under review by EPA’s internal watchdog.

The use of luxury air travel by members of Trump’s Cabinet has been attracting attention for months. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in September following media reports he spent at least $400,000 in taxpayer funds on private jets for himself and his staff.

A report recently released by the inspector general at the Department of Veterans Affairs found that Secretary David Shulkin and his staff made “false representations” to justify his wife accompanying him at taxpayer expense on an 11-day European trip that mixed business and sightseeing.

Follow AP environmental writer Michael Biesecker at http://Twitter.com/mbieseck

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