Trump leaving arms trade treaty
INDIANAPOLIS — In a largely symbolic gesture to a group that helped him win the White House, President Donald Trump said Friday he is pulling the U.S. back from an international agreement on the arms trade, telling the National Rifle Association the treaty is “badly misguided.” Trump made the announcement at the NRA’s annual convention, where he vowed to fight for gun rights and implored members of the nation’s largest pro-gun group — struggling to maintain its influence — to rally behind his re-election bid. “It’s under assault,” he said of the constitutional right to bear arms. “But not while we’re here.” With pro-gun legislation largely stalled in Congress and few deliverables during Trump’s term so far, the president told the group that he would be revoking the United States’ status as a signatory of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the multibillion-dollar global arms trade in conventional weapons, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. President Barack Obama signed the pact, which has long been opposed by the NRA, in 2013. But it has never been ratified by U.S. lawmakers.
Vet thought people were Muslim
SAN FRANCISCO — An Iraq War veteran deliberately drove into a group of pedestrians because he thought some of the people were Muslim, California authorities said Friday. Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, faces eight counts of attempted murder for injuring eight people, including four who remain hospitalized. The most seriously injured is a 13-year-old Sunnyvale girl of South Asian descent who is in a coma with severe brain trauma. “New evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith,” Sunnyvale police chief Phan Ngo said. Peoples appeared briefly in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Friday. He did not enter a plea and is being held without bail. The former U.S. Army sharpshooter experienced post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, his family said. Peoples’ attorney, Chuck Smith, said Friday that the crash was in no way deliberate.
Over 1,000 quarantined in LA
LOS ANGELES — More than 1,000 students and staff members at two Los Angeles universities were quarantined on campus or sent home this week in one of the most sweeping efforts yet by public health authorities to contain the spread of measles in the U.S., where cases have reached a 25-year high . By Friday afternoon, two days after Los Angeles County ordered the precautions, about 325 of those affected had been cleared to return after proving their immunity to the disease, through either medical records or tests, health officials said. The action at the University of University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Los Angeles — which together have more than 65,000 students — reflected the seriousness with which public health officials are taking the nation’s outbreak.
Amish population grows
LANCASTER, Pa. — The Amish population in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County is continuing to grow each year, despite the encroachment of urban sprawl on their communities. Some experts are concerned that a planned 75-acre housing and commercial project will make it more difficult for the county to accommodate the Amish. U.S. Census bureau figures show the county added about 2,500 people in 2018, and about 1,000 of them were Amish, the news site LNP reported on Friday. Lancaster County’s Amish population reached 33,143 in 2018, up 3.2%, from the previous year, according to Elizabethtown College researchers. That growth is consistent with previous years. The Amish, who typically have large families, accounted for about 41% of the county’s overall population growth last year. The Amish population in the county doubles about every 20 years, the news site reported. In 1970, the Amish numbered about 7,000. That climbed to about 12,400 by 1990 and 16,900 by 2000. But a new development in the midst of a thriving, centuries-old Amish community, could impact their way of life that includes horse-drawn carriages, not cars. The proposed development, called Oregon Village, would be in an unincorporated area in Manheim Township. The plan includes high-density housing, restaurants, a supermarket, hotel, bank and retail on two sites totaling 75 acres.
Police look at truck’s brakes
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Four people died after a semitruck hauling lumber lost control and plowed into vehicles on a crowded highway near Denver, triggering explosions and a fire so intense that it melted the roadway and metal off cars, authorities said Friday. “It was crash, crash, crash and explosion, explosion, explosion,” said John Romero, a spokesman for the Lakewood, Colorado, police department, describing the 28-vehicle chain reaction of blasts from ruptured gas tanks. The truck driver, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, of Houston, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide as police investigate how the crash happened Thursday on Interstate 70. Six people were taken to hospitals with injuries, but their conditions were unclear Friday. “There is just a bunch of debris from this crash that took place. The carnage was significant, just unbelievable,” said another department spokesman, Ty Countryman.
Weinstein trial moved back
NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, postponed until September, is now poised to end two years after a wave of women’s allegations against him sparked the #MeToo movement. A Manhattan judge announced the delay Friday after a closed-door hearing in which prosecutors sought to broaden their case to include some of those women’s accounts. Weinstein’s trial had been scheduled to begin June 3, but both sides indicated they need more time to sort through witness and evidence issues. It is now set for Sept. 9, with jury selection expected to take up to two weeks and testimony lasting about a month. Weinstein lawyer Jose Baez, who joined the case in January, saw the delay as a boon to a defense keen on discrediting his accusers and showing that any encounters were consensual. “We had a very good day in court today. We’re glad that the trial got back to September,” Baez told reporters. “This is going to give us an ample opportunity to dig into the case.”
18 months for being Kremlin agent
WASHINGTON — In a quivering voice, Maria Butina begged for leniency Friday as she awaited sentencing on charges of being a secret agent for Russia. She cast herself as an innocent caught up in a massive geopolitical power game. But a federal judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison followed by deportation. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with prosecutors, who said the 30-year-old Russian deliberately obscured her true purposes while developing backdoor contacts inside the American conservative movement to advance the interests of Russia. The sentence can be appealed and Butina will get credit for her time in jail since her high-profile arrest in July 2018. The case garnered intense media coverage amid speculation over the extent of Russian interference in American politics. Butina admitted last year to covertly gathering intelligence on the National Rifle Association and other groups at the direction of a former Russian lawmaker. Her guilty plea to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent came as part of a deal with prosecutors. At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Butina appealed to Chutkan to release her with nine months of time served.
Lottery win raises suspicions
LONDON — For two friends with checkered pasts it was the luck of a lifetime: a 4 million-pound ($5.2 million) lottery win. But Mark Goodram and Jon-Ross Watson may see their celebrations cut short. Britain’s National Lottery is withholding the payout as it investigates whether the men, who have a string of criminal convictions, used illicit means to buy the winning ticket. The Sun said neither man has a bank account, leading lottery organizers to investigate how they obtained the bank-issued debit card that paid for the 10 pound ($13) scratch card. Camelot, which runs the lottery, said Friday it couldn’t confirm details of the story because of winner-anonymity rules. The firm said it holds a “thorough investigation” if there is any doubt about a claim.
Universe expanding faster
WASHINGTON — The universe is expanding faster than it used to, meaning it’s about a billion years younger than we thought, a new study by a Nobel Prize winner says. And that’s sending a shudder through the world of physics, making astronomers re-think some of their most basic concepts. At issue is a number called the Hubble constant, a calculation for how fast the universe is expanding. Some scientists call it the most important number in cosmology, the study of the origin and development of the universe. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Johns Hopkins University astronomer Adam Riess concluded in this week’s Astrophysical Journal that the figure is 9% higher than the previous calculation, which was based on studying leftovers from the Big Bang. The trouble is, Riess and others think both calculations are correct. Confused? That’s OK, so are the experts.
‘Endgame’ topples preview mark
LOS ANGELES — “Avengers: Endgame” has gotten off to a mighty start at the box office, earning a record $60 million from Thursday night preview showings in North America, according to the Walt Disney Co. The previous record holder was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which earned $57 million from Thursday previews in 2015, though “Avengers: Endgame” was shown in more theaters. Internationally, Disney said on Friday that “Avengers: Endgame” has already grossed $305 million in its first two days in theaters with over half of that tally coming from China. Box office prognosticators are projecting that the film could earn anywhere from $260 million to $300 million domestically, and between $800 million and $1 billion globally when the dust settles and final numbers are reported Monday.
100 years for molesting children
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — A southern Indiana man who pleaded guilty to molesting children while working at a YMCA and at an elementary school has been sentenced to 100 years in prison. Michael Begin Jr. of Jeffersonville was given his punishment Friday in a Clark County courtroom after the 19-year-old earlier pleaded guilty to 20 counts of child molestation. Begin read an apology in court before family members of several victims made statements. Authorities say he molested the children between the ages of 3 and 8 while working at the Clark County Family YMCA and as an elementary school teaching assistant.
Fallen Marine is honored
NEW YORK — A U.S. Marine killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan was honored by mourners from across the country at his funeral Friday in New York City, where he also was a decorated firefighter. The flag-draped casket of Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman was carried atop a fire engine from a Bronx funeral home to Manhattan’s majestic Saint Thomas Church. Thousands of Marines, firefighters and other responders in their dress uniforms lined both sides of Fifth Avenue for nearly a mile, saluting amid a slow drumbeat and the bagpipe strains of “Amazing Grace.” “Today our city mourns a hero,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the Episcopal service, adding that Slutman represented “the best in us.” The 43-year-old father of three young daughters died April 8 near Bagram Airfield U.S military base, just three weeks before he was to return home. Two other members of Slutman’s Massachusetts-based Marine Reserve unit also were killed. A 15-year member of the Fire Department of New York, Slutman was with Ladder 27 in the Bronx. In 2014, he received a medal for bravery after rescuing an unconscious woman from a burning apartment in the South Bronx. “Chris and his inside team forced open the door to the burning apartment and were met with high heat and thick black smoke that went from the floor to the ceiling,” said Chris Williamson, who was Slutman’s FDNY captain for four years. “Chris crawled on his belly through the smoke to a rear bedroom and found an unconscious woman; he did this without the protection of a fire hose.” He then dragged the woman to safety. Marine Sgt. Major Chris Armstrong described Slutman as “a leader who was respected and admired.” “When I received the terrible news, my heart broke as I thought of Chris’s family and unit,” Armstrong said, fighting back tears.
Outlook for economy brightens
WASHINGTON — The worries that hung ominously over the U.S. economy early this year appear to have lifted. And that sunnier picture has helped bolster confidence in the stock market — driving the benchmark S&P 500 index to another record high Friday. The latest dose of encouragement came in a report Friday that the U.S. economy grew much faster than expected in the January-March quarter, suggesting that the nearly decade-long expansion still has a ways to go. Other recent signs have fed a growing view among many analysts that the economy faces little risk of slipping into a recession anytime soon as some had feared when the year began. Retail sales jumped in March. And with hiring solid and wages rising at a decent pace, consumer spending will likely strengthen in the coming months. In Friday’s report, the government said the economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the first quarter. That’s much better than the 1% or below rate that was forecast in the early weeks of 2019. Though the economy is widely expected to slow in the current quarter to a roughly 2% rate or less, such a pace would still produce annual growth for the first half of the year of roughly 2.5%. That would be a solid gain. And it would be in line with the modest but steady growth that has prevailed for most of the expansion.
Sleeping rocker recalled
Another brand of sleeping rockers is being recalled, after five infants died in them over the past seven years. Kids II said Friday that it is recalling nearly 700,000 rocking sleepers that were sold since 2012 at Walmart, Target and Toys R Us. It comes just two weeks after Fisher-Price recalled about 4.7 million of its similar Rock ‘n Play sleepers in which more than 30 babies died over a decade. The deaths in both sleepers occurred after infants rolled over from their backs to their stomachs or sides while unrestrained. The sleepers are soft padded cradles that rock or vibrate to help put babies to sleep.
Charm bracelet on probation
BOISE, Idaho — Judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to handing out sentences to criminal defendants, but some experts say a recent Idaho case where a woman was ordered to wear a charm bracelet is particularly unusual. Jennifer Fanopoulos was sentenced in Boise’s U.S. District Court earlier this month for using fraud to obtain illegal drugs from the hospital where she worked. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced her to three years of probation and added an extra requirement: He ordered her to wear a charm bracelet bearing pictures of her children to deter her from using drugs or alcohol. Assistant Criminal Justice Professor Jacqueline Lee with Boise State University said creative probation terms like this one are so rare that there’s not much research available to see if they work to reduce future crime. “I’ve never seen anything like this, but certainly judges do depart from the normal conditions sometimes,” Lee said. “There are some cases where they describe some of these terms as a ‘scarlet letter,’ where they’ve made people who have a DUI put a sign up, or get a special license plate designating the conviction. But this (the charm bracelet) doesn’t seem like it has the same intent behind it, in terms of shaming a defendant.”
Exxon agrees to $1M penalty
BILLINGS, Mont. — Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed to pay a $1.05 million penalty to settle alleged federal water pollution violations from an oil pipeline break into Montana’s Yellowstone River, according to court documents filed Friday. Approval of the agreement by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters would resolve the last outstanding federal enforcement case against the oil giant stemming from the 2011 accident that spilled 63,000 gallons of crude. The spill near the town of Laurel, about 15 miles west of Billings, came after flooding along the Yellowstone scoured the river bottom and exposed the buried pipeline, causing it to break and release crude directly into the waterway.
Lawsuit targets girls football
SALT LAKE CITY — The question of how many girls would play football for an all-female high school team if given the chance took center stage Friday in a Utah lawsuit filed by a teenage female football star. More than 400 girls have joined a league that 16-year-old Sam Gordon helped create, more than enough to get started in schools, lawyer Loren Washburn said. “The school district has an obligation to meet student demand,” he said. The districts, though, argue it’s tough to gauge whether there’s enough interest around the state to create a roster of competing teams for something completely new. “There are no other high-school girls’ tackle football teams,” said Rachel Terry, an assistant Utah attorney general. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead ordered the two sides to negotiate the language of a survey to measure interest. That’s a key question under Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.
Crowdfunding to aid marshals
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Along the Arkansas River on the western border of the state, construction is underway on a more than $50 million museum that has been in the works for longer than a decade. But organizers are still more than $15 million short. The proposed 53,000-square-foot museum devoted to the U.S. Marshals Service — the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency — is scheduled to be dedicated in just under five months, on Sept. 24, but officials have said they don’t have the funds to finish the exhibits. By midday Friday, a week-old GoFundMe campaign established by the museum’s foundation had raised $3,840, under a half of a percent of the organizers’ initial goal to raise $2 million by July. The website showed 33 people had donated between $5 and $1,000. Renderings on the museum’s website show the completed building, with glass walls and an angular roof, sitting on a manicured lawn on the banks of the Arkansas River. The website says there will be exhibits that feature stories about marshals like Bass Reeves, a former slave, and a theater where the duties of marshals will be explained.