North Carolina transgender 'bathroom bill' flushed by lawmakers

Mar 30, 2017 1

North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which limited people to the public restroom aligned with their biological gender, was flushed by lawmakers Thursday after a year of controversy.

The law sparked a rash of concert, sporting event and business convention boycotts and cost the millions in revenue. A compromise plan announced Wednesday night by the state’s Democratic governor and leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature, was worked out amid pressure from the NCAA, which threatened to take away more sporting events.

It was sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature. Cooper had urged lawmakers to support the deal, which among other things repeals a year-old law that said transgender people have to use the public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

The compromise was condemned by some on both sides, with conservatives staunchly defending the current law, also known as House Bill 2, and gay and transgender activists complaining that the new measure still denies them protection from discrimination. They demanded nothing less than full repeal.

As a result, it was unclear whether the retreat from HB2 would quell the furor or satisfy the NCAA.

Republican Sen. Dan Bishop, a primary sponsor of HB2, denounced the new deal on the Senate floor, where it was approved 32-16, with nine of 15 Democrats among the yes votes.

“This bill is at best a punt. At worst it is a betrayal of principle,” the Charlotte-area legislator said.

The House passed the bill 70-48 later in the day.

Republican Rep. Scott Stone, who lives in Charlotte, urged his colleagues to vote for the bill.

“We are impeding the growth in our revenue, in our ability to do more things for tourism, for teacher pay, while we have this stigma hanging over,” Stone said. “The time has come for us to get out from under the national spotlight for negative things. You can’t go anywhere on this planet without somebody knowing what is HB2 and having some perception about it.”

While the new measure eliminates the rule on transgender bathroom use, it also says state legislators — not local government or school officials — are in charge of policy on public restrooms.

House Bill 2 had also restricted local governments’ ability to enact nondiscrimination ordinances. Under the bill just approved, local governments can’t pass new nondiscrimination protections for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020.

That moratorium, according to GOP House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.

“This is a significant compromise from all sides on an issue that has been discussed and discussed and discussed in North Carolina for a long period of time,” Berger said. “It is something that I think satisfies some people, dissatisfied some people, but I think it’s a good thing for North Carolina.”

Gay rights activists blasted the proposal, saying it was not a true repeal.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, if you vote for this bill, you are not a friend of the LGBT community,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said. “You are not standing on the right side of the moral arc of history or with the civil rights community.”

The deal came as the NCAA said North Carolina wouldn’t be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 unless HB2 was changed. The sports governing body said it would start making decisions on host cities this week and announce them in April.

North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have submitted more than 130 bids for such events.

The NCAA already pulled championship events from the state this year because of HB2.

HB2 also prompted businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis ( this week found that the law would cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

HB2 supporters argued that the bathroom law was needed to preserve people’s privacy and protect them from sexual predators. Opponents said that was nonsense and that the danger was imaginary.

Several potential compromises have failed over the past year, including one during a special session in December that collapsed amid partisan finger-pointing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Home invasion gone wrong: Utah resident kills one suspect, injures another

Mar 30, 2017 1

One person is dead and another is in the hospital after a home invasion in Salt Lake City early Thursday morning.

Authorities were called to an apartment near 731 S. 300 E. at about 3 a.m.

Police say two men broke into the apartment overnight and one of the residents inside the apartment shot the suspects.

One of the suspects died in the apartment and another collapsed just outside the door.

He was taken to the hospital in critical condition as has since been upgraded to serious condition.

Police are not searching for any other suspects at this time.

Officers said the break-in does not appear to be random.

“It’s been my experience typically with home invasions that they either do know someone in the home or thought they knew someone in the home, so the chances of this being random are pretty slim,” Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said.

Police said the resident who shot the suspects is cooperating with the investigation.

Roads in the area have reopened.

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Professor who called Trump's election 'terrorism' awarded 'Faculty Member of the Year'

Mar 30, 2017 3

Orange Coast College honored a professor with its top reward, even though a secret video recording reportedly showed her calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” and his election in 2016 “an act of terrorism.”

Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox called Vice President Mike Pence “one of the most anti-gay humans” in America, said it was “scary” living around “hateful” Republicans in Orange County, California, and seemed to suggest America was “assaulted” after the 2016 election.


Cox refused to apologize but received OCC’s  “Faculty Member of the Year” award just a few months after her comments, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Cox’s student, 19 year-old Caleb O’Neil, secretly recorded her comments and the footage went viral in December of 2016.

O’Neil violated a Coast Community College District policy that barred anyone on district property from recording someone without their consent. OCC suspended him, according to Washington Free Beacon.

Click for more from the Washington Free Beacon.

Massive cocaine bust: Plane stopped at Ohio University airport

Mar 30, 2017 3

Authorities found illegal drugs on board a plane that landed at Ohio University’s airport on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified Ohio University police and the Athens County Sheriff’s Office that an international plane was landing at Gordon K. Bush Ohio University Airport without authorization Wednesday afternoon.

OU police said the pilot reported a mechanical problem, which forced him to land unexpectedly. Officers detained the two people on board until U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrived since the airport is not a place of entry into the United States.

Homeland Security said investigators recovered 132 kilos, or 291 pounds, of cocaine from the plane, according to WBNS in Columbus.

Agents took the two suspects into custody.

Homeland Security is now in charge of the investigation.

Click for more from Fox 8.

Family of slain Oklahoma man says audio proves racial bias

Mar 30, 2017 3

The attorney for an Oklahoma police officer accused in the shooting death of a black man says a potentially “prejudicial” audio recording should be barred from trial because it’s inflammatory.

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 killing of Terence Crutcher. Shelby has pleaded not guilty.

The Tulsa World ( ) reports that another officer, watching Shelby’s interaction with Crutcher from a helicopter, says the 40-year-old man “looks like a bad dude.”

Crutcher’s family say the comment proves racial bias.

Attorney Shannon McMurray asked Wednesday that the judge bar the jury from hearing the audio. McMurray also requested the jury be given information about Crutcher’s past, including his history of drug use and state incarceration.

Shelby is scheduled to return to court April 12.

Clues emerge in aftermath of deadly Texas church bus crash

Mar 30, 2017 5

The head-on crash that killed 13 people on a church bus in Texas apparently unfolded after an oncoming pickup truck veered across the center line Wednesday, an investigator revealed.

Meanwhile, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Braunfels spoke out Thursday about an outpouring of support after the crash that killed 12 of his church members Wednesday afternoon – and asked people to pray for the driver of the other vehicle, who was also killed.


“Our priority as a church is to care for our families who have lost a loved one in this accident. There will be services being planned and prepared,” Pastor Brad McLean said. “I would encourage people to pray for the family of the driver of the other vehicle. That family is hurting. I would encourage you to show love and grace to them.”

One bus passenger and the truck driver remain hospitalized. The bus was returning from a three-day retreat Wednesday before the crash about 75 miles west of San Antonio.


“For reasons unknown the truck veered into the southbound lane” before impact, Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Orlando Moreno told reporters that evening. He said the crash unfolded along a curve in the road where the speed limit is 65 mph.

Another DPS spokesman, Lt. Johnny Hernandez, was more circumspect Thursday, saying the crash remained under investigation.

The 13 people on a church bus who were killed ranged in age from 61 to 87, investigators added. The bus driver was identified as 67-year-old Murray William Barrett of New Braunfels.

McLean said he was grateful for the love and kindness being shown to his congregation from other churches and local businesses since the accident.

The truck driver, 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young of Leakey, Texas, and bus passenger, 64-year-old Rose Mary Harris of New Braunfels, have been hospitalized.

Pastor McLean said that every person who perished will be “deeply missed,” adding, “I remember the smiles, I remember the hugs… You live life with folks, so you share so many small interactions that add up to a relationship that impacts you.”

Photos and video of the crash’s aftermath showed heavy damage to the front drivers’ sides of both vehicles where it appeared the two had collided. The back of the bus was up on a guardrail, with glass and debris scattered onto the grass below.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the collision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

White House aides reportedly shared intelligence files with Nunes

Mar 30, 2017 1

Two White House aides reportedly were sources for a top House Republican who said earlier this month that Trump transition team members were incidentally caught up in surveillance conducted on foreign targets after the presidential election.

It had previously been unclear who showed embattled House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes the documents; though it previously emerged Nunes viewed the files on White House grounds.

But on Thursday, “several” current officials identified the sources to The New York Times as Ezra Cohen-Warnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, an attorney at the White House Counsel’s Office who previously worked for the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier this month, after President Trump tweeted that former President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” him, Ellis began viewing classified reports that showed “intercepted communications of foreign officials,” The Times reported. The reports mainly focused on foreign officials “talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle,” according to The Times.

Nunes shocked many observers with his revelation that Trump team members had been “unmasked” and had their identities widely disseminated throughout the government. Sources told The Times that Nunes’ characterization of the reports as having nothing to do with Russia appeared to be correct.

After his shocking news conference, Nunes, in a move panned by many Democrats, went to the White House to inform Trump of what he had found. Other members of the House Intelligence Committee say they have not seen the documents, though Nunes has said he is trying to get members access to them.

Nunes has said the intelligence collection appeared to have been done lawfully, and the intercepts of Trump team members were only collected incidentally. However, Nunes raised questions over the apparent unmasking of multiple officials and the extensive dissemination of the information — ostensibly to be used against Trump.

Though The Times report doesn’t dispute any essential facts of what Nunes said, it’s likely to embolden detractors who already say Nunes is too close to the White House and Trump – on whose transition team Nunes served.

Democrats want Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Nunes has resisted, defending his actions. 

Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page denies working with Russians to help campaign

Mar 30, 2017 3

A former Trump adviser at the center of the controversy over the campaign’s contacts with Moscow told Fox News he “absolutely” did not work with the Russians to help the campaign.

“I did nothing that could even be … possibly viewed as helping them in any way,” Carter Page told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge.

Asked if he worked with the Russians to hurt the Clinton campaign, he said: “ Absolutely not. In no way, shape or form.”

Page is one of several Trump advisers and associates who have been accused by Democrats and others of having improper contact with Russians last year, amid several investigations in Washington over Russia’s meddling in the campaign.


But Page told Fox News he was “paid zero by the Russians,” not even through a third party.

He also criticized efforts by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to implicate him, and said he’s willing to talk to the committee.

“That’s part of the reason why I’m excited about helping the committee become much more bipartisan and taking a step in the direction of talking about facts,” he said. 

Pentagon gets OK for more aggressive airstrikes in Somalia

Mar 30, 2017 5

U.S. officials say President Donald Trump has given the U.S. military greater authority to go after al-Qaida linked militants in Somalia.

The officials say Trump’s decision approves a Pentagon request to allow more aggressive airstrikes in the African nation’s southern region. It also allows American forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army and other allies fighting al-Shabab.

Portions of southern Somalia, excluding the capital Mogadishu, will be considered a warzone. That gives U.S. special operations forces the authority to accompany partner troops closer to the fight and call in offensive airstrikes quicker.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Associated Press first reported the request by Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, in February.

Woman gets 40 years for antifreeze poisoning of husband

Mar 30, 2017 6

A Delaware woman who killed her weightlifter husband by putting antifreeze into his steroid injections has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The News Journal reports ( ) that a state Department of Justice spokesman said 47-year-old Jamie Baker was sentenced Thursday in Kent County Superior Court and ordered to have no contact with her husband’s family.

Baker pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder. She admitted to poisoning her 42-year-old husband James Baker, a competitive weightlifter who died in September 2013. Authorities said an autopsy found ethylene glycol in his system. The chemical is found in antifreeze.

Jamie Bake reportedly told officers she filled a hypodermic syringe with antifreeze and injected it into her husband’s bottles of liquid steroids, but she did not give them a motive.