Bridge victim’s grieving uncle lashes out at ‘incompetence’
MIAMI (AP) — As crews removed bodies from beneath a collapsed pedestrian bridge Saturday, a victim’s uncle raged against what he called the “complete incompetence” and “colossal failure” that allowed people to drive beneath the unfinished concrete span.
“Why they had to build this monstrosity in the first place to get children across the street?” said an anguished Joe Smitha, whose niece, Alexa Duran, was crushed in Thursday’s collapse at Florida International University. “Then they decided to stress test this bridge while traffic was running underneath it?”
Authorities say six people were killed when the structure fell onto a busy six-lane road connecting the campus to the community of Sweetwater. Crews removed two cars Saturday morning and said they found three bodies, but officials said there were still at least two more victims beneath the rubble. Late in the day they recovered a third car, and Saturday night they said they believed all victims had been found.
The Miami-Dade Police Department confirmed the names of four victims Saturday.
Rolando Fraga Hernandez and his gold Jeep Cherokee were pulled from the wreckage Saturday. Later, the bodies of Oswald Gonzalez, 57, and Alberto Arias, 54, were found inside a white Chevy truck.
McCabe kept memos on Trump dealings; Mueller now has them
WASHINGTON (AP) — Andrew McCabe, the onetime FBI deputy director long scorned by President Donald Trump and just fired by the attorney general, kept personal memos detailing interactions with the president that have been provided to the special counsel’s office and are similar to the notes compiled by dismissed FBI chief James Comey, The Associated Press has learned.
The memos could factor into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as his team examines Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice.
McCabe’s memos include details of his own interactions with the president, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to discuss the notes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. They also recount different conversations he had with Comey, who kept notes on meetings with Trump that unnerved him.
Though the precise contents are unknown, the memos possibly could help substantiate McCabe’s assertion that he was unfairly maligned by a White House he says had declared “war” on the FBI and Mueller’s investigation. They almost certainly contain, as Comey’s memos did, previously undisclosed details about encounters between the Trump administration and FBI that could be of interest to Mueller.
The disclosure Saturday came hours after Trump called McCabe’s firing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions “a great day for Democracy” and asserted without elaboration that McCabe knew “all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels off the FBI!” In the last year, Trump has repeatedly condemned McCabe as emblematic of an FBI that he insists is biased against his administration.
School-walkout unity also lays bare division among students
As she addressed the crowd during the walkout at her Idaho high school, Kylee Denny faced heckles and name-calling from a group of students carrying American flags, she said. The counterprotesters included many familiar faces, including her boyfriend’s stepbrother.
To avoid making a difficult situation worse, Kylee’s boyfriend stayed in class during the rally at Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls, which was part of Wednesday’s national school walkout.
“I’m dating his stepbrother, which is really incredibly awkward and it’s very tense because he was being so hostile about losing respect for me because I was walking out,” said Kylee, a 17-year-old junior who helped organize the protest.
The walkouts to protest gun violence that mobilized students across the country also created tensions in hallways and classrooms as a new generation was thrust into the debate over guns. While those calling for new restrictions stood in the spotlight, the surge of youth activism has exposed sharp differences of opinion.
Administrators and student leaders are also sorting through the fallout as some schools hand out discipline for those who defied school instructions and participated in the walkouts exactly one month after the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Lawmakers quibble over details of $1.3T US spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top-level congressional talks on a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill are reaching a critical stage as negotiators confront immigration, abortion-related issues and a battle over a massive rail project that pits President Donald Trump against his most powerful Democratic adversary.
The bipartisan measure is loaded with political and policy victories for both sides. Republicans and Trump are winning a long-sought budget increase for the Pentagon while Democrats obtain funding for infrastructure, the opioid crisis and a wide swath of domestic programs.
The bill would implement last month’s big budget agreement, providing 10 per cent increases for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies when compared with current levels. Coupled with last year’s tax cut measure, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October.
While most of the funding issues in the enormous measure have been sorted out, fights involving a number of policy “riders” — so named because they catch a ride on a difficult-to-stop spending bill — continued into the weekend. Among them are GOP-led efforts to add a plan to revive federal subsidies to help the poor cover out-of-pocket costs under President Barack Obama’s health law and to fix a glitch in the recent tax bill that subsidizes grain sales to co-operatives at the expense of for-profit grain companies.
Trump has privately threatened to veto the whole package if a $900 million payment is made on the Hudson River Gateway Project, a priority of top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. Trump’s opposition is alarming northeastern Republicans such as Gateway supporter Peter King, R-N.Y., who lobbied Trump on the project at a St. Patrick’s luncheon in the Capitol on Thursday.
Duke, Kentucky, Kansas seeking trips to the Sweet 16
The second round of the NCAA Tournament tips off on Saturday — with many fans still stunned over top-seeded Virginia’s 20-point loss to 16th-seeded UMBC on Friday night.
Fellow No. 1 seed Villanova opens the action against Alabama, as the Wildcats look to avoid a second-round exit for the second year in a row.
Second-seeded Duke will face a dangerous and veteran Rhode Island team, while Kentucky takes on 13th-seeded Buffalo — which blew out Arizona on Thursday.
No. 1 seeded Kansas will play Seton Hall, while Tennessee has Loyola-Chicago in its path to the Sweet 16.
Ohio State and Gonzaga will square off in Boise. Florida and Texas Tech will meet in an AP Top 25 matchup, and Michigan closes out the day against Houston.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar joins St Patrick’s Parade
NEW YORK (AP) — Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar joined along as Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue came alive with the sound of bagpipes, trumpets and lots of green Saturday at the 257th running of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Several bagpipe bands led a parade made up of over 100 marching bands after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke briefly, calling it a “day of inclusion” and adding: “We’re all immigrants.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, marched with police Commissioner James O’Neill under sunny skies as some spectators sipped coffee to stay warm several days before the start of spring.
Varadkar watched the parade at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before joining the march himself.
The parade, which began at 11 a.m., typically lasts nearly six hours. An estimated 150,000 marchers were to make the 1.4-mile (2.2-kilometre) trek past Central Park, the Cathedral and Trump Tower.
Polls open in Russia as Putin eyes 4th presidential term
YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — Vladimir Putin’s victory in Russia’s presidential election Sunday isn’t in doubt. The only real question is whether voters will turn out in big enough numbers to hand him a convincing mandate for his fourth term — and many Russian workers are facing intense pressure to do so.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. Sunday in Russia’s Far East regions of Chukotka and Kamchatka. Voting will conclude at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT; 2 p.m. EDT) in Kaliningrad, the Baltic exclave that is Russia’s westernmost region.
Putin is so certain of winning that authorities are investing instead in massive get-out-the-vote efforts to produce a turnout that would embolden the Russian leader both domestically and internationally.
Yevgeny Roizman, the mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg, says local officials and state employees have all received orders “from higher up” to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 per cent.
“They are using everything: schools, kindergartens, hospitals — the battle for the turnout is unprecedented,” said Roizman, one of the rare opposition politicians to hold a significant elected office.
Trump-linked data analysis firm taps 50M Facebook profiles
WASHINGTON (AP) — A data analysis firm employed by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign tapped the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, allowing it to capitalize on the private social media activity of a large portion of the U.S. electorate, newspapers reported Saturday.
One of the largest data leaks in Facebook history allowed Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon, to develop techniques that formed the basis of its work on the Trump campaign, The New York Times and The Guardian reported.
Facebook said it suspended Cambridge Analytica over allegations that it kept the improperly obtained user data after telling Facebook it had been deleted.
In a blog post, Facebook explained that Cambridge Analytica had years ago received user data from a Facebook app that purported to be a psychological research tool, though the firm was not authorized to have the information. Roughly 270,000 people downloaded and shared personal details with the app.
Cambridge Analytica later certified in 2015 that it had destroyed the information it had received, according to Facebook, although the social network said it received reports “several days ago” that not all the data was deleted. Facebook says it is investigating.
Lawmakers say UK should consider postponing Brexit
LONDON (AP) — Britain should consider postponing Brexit because there may not be enough time to strike a deal with the European Union before the U.K. leaves the bloc a year from now, a key committee of British lawmakers said Sunday.
The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee said if major aspects of the future relationship with the EU remain unsettled by October, Britain should seek a “limited extension” of its EU membership.
Britain and the EU want a deal on future relations settled by the fall so national parliaments can approve it before Britain officially leaves the 28-nation bloc on March 29, 2019.
In a report published Sunday, the lawmakers said a proposed transition period of about two years should also be able to be extended if needed. The two sides have agreed in principle that Britain will continue to remain part of the bloc’s structures and rules until the end of 2020.
Seven pro-Brexit members of the 21-member all-party committee refused to back the report, preparing an alternative version that took a more uncompromising tone toward the EU.
US probes 4 deaths in Hyundai-Kia cars when air bags failed
DETROIT (AP) — Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes and four people are dead. Now the U.S. government’s road safety agency wants to know why.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s investigating problems that affect an estimated 425,000 cars made by the Korean automakers. The agency also is looking into whether the same problem could happen in vehicles made by other companies.
In documents posted on its website Saturday , the safety agency says the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts. The agency says it has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage to the cars. Four people died and six were injured.
The problem has been traced to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA now wants to know if other automakers used the same computer.
On Feb. 27, Hyundai recalled nearly 155,000 Sonatas due to air bag failures, which the company blamed on the short circuits. Hyundai’s sister automaker Kia, which sells similar vehicles, has yet to issue a recall.