California police find no motive for school shooting

California police find no motive for school shooting By Steve Gorman SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (Reuters) - A 16-year-old student was carrying out a deliberate plan when he shot five teenagers at his California high school then turned the gun on himself, the local sheriff said on Friday, but authorities have no clues about what sparked the bloodshed. "We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a briefing. The gunman, whose identity has not been made public, survived the self-inflicted gunshot wound but was in grave condition in a hospital, Villanueva said. Two of the other five students who were shot in the Thursday morning attack died of their wounds. Detectives worked through the night to follow up on tips related to the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles. The shooting, which was caught on video, unfolded in 16 seconds, police said. Arriving at school on his 16th birthday, the suspect pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor courtyard, stood in one place and shot his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun and firing the last bullet into his head. Villanueva said authorities did not know the origin of the gun used, nor how the shooter got his hands on it. All Hart District schools in Santa Clarita were closed on Friday, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's office said on Twitter, out of respect for the victims and their families. Two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said early on Friday. At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old boy was treated and released. Two other students who had been taken there died. A hospital spokesman could not immediately be reached on Friday. Villanueva identified one of the students killed as Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15. He said the families of the other student killed and those wounded did not authorize him to release their names. The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018. It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group. (Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)

California police find no motive for school shooting
By Steve Gorman

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (Reuters) – A 16-year-old student was carrying out a deliberate plan when he shot five teenagers at his California high school then turned the gun on himself, the local sheriff said on Friday, but authorities have no clues about what sparked the bloodshed.

“We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a briefing.

The gunman, whose identity has not been made public, survived the self-inflicted gunshot wound but was in grave condition in a hospital, Villanueva said. Two of the other five students who were shot in the Thursday morning attack died of their wounds.

Detectives worked through the night to follow up on tips related to the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles. The shooting, which was caught on video, unfolded in 16 seconds, police said.

Arriving at school on his 16th birthday, the suspect pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor courtyard, stood in one place and shot his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun and firing the last bullet into his head.

Villanueva said authorities did not know the origin of the gun used, nor how the shooter got his hands on it.

All Hart District schools in Santa Clarita were closed on Friday, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s office said on Twitter, out of respect for the victims and their families.

Two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said early on Friday.

At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old boy was treated and released. Two other students who had been taken there died. A hospital spokesman could not immediately be reached on Friday.

Villanueva identified one of the students killed as Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15. He said the families of the other student killed and those wounded did not authorize him to release their names.

The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)

Factbox: How social media sites handle political ads

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Online platforms including Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google face growing pressure to stop carrying political ads that contain false or misleading claims ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

In the United States, the Communications Act prevents broadcast stations from rejecting or censoring ads from candidates for federal office once they have accepted advertising for that political race, although this does not apply to cable networks like CNN, or to social media sites, where leading presidential candidates are spending millions to target voters in the run-up to the November 2020 election.

The following is how social media platforms have decided to handle false or misleading claims in political ads:

FACEBOOK

Facebook exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking program, allowing them to run ads with false claims.

The policy  has been attacked by regulators and lawmakers who say it could spread misinformation and cause voter suppression. Critics including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren have also run intentionally false Facebook ads to highlight the issue.

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has defended the company’s stance, arguing that it does not want to stifle political speech, but he also said the company was considering ways to refine the policy.

Facebook does fact-check content from political groups. The company also says it fact-checks politicians if they share previously debunked content and does not allow this content in ads.

TWITTER

Twitter Inc  has banned political ads. On Friday it said this will include ads that reference a political candidate, party, election or legislation, among other limits.

The company also said it will not allow ads that advocate for a specific outcome on political or social causes.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement last month.

Some lawmakers praised the ban but critics said Twitter’s decision would benefit incumbent and hurt less well-known candidates.

Officials from the Trump campaign, which is out-spending its Democratic rivals on Facebook and Google ads, called the ban “dumb” but also said it would have little effect on the president’s strategy.

The overall political ad spend for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections on Twitter was less than $3 million, Twitter’s Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said.

“Twitter from an advertising perspective is not a player at all. Facebook and Google are the giants in political ads,” said Steve Passwaiter, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media.

GOOGLE

Google and its video-streaming service YouTube prohibit certain kinds of misrepresentation  in ads, such as misinformation about public voting procedures or incorrect claims that a public figure has died.

However, Google does not have a wholesale ban on politicians running false or misleading ads.

In October, when former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign asked the company to take down a Trump campaign ad that it said contained false claims, a Google spokeswoman told Reuters it did not violate the site’s policies.

YouTube has started adding links and information from Wikipedia to give users more information around sensitive content such as conspiracy theory videos, but a spokeswoman said this program does not relate to ads.

SNAP

Snap Inc allows political advertising unless the ads are misleading, deceptive or violate the terms of service on its disappearing message app Snapchat.

The company, which recently joined Facebook, Twitter and Google in launching a public database of its political ads, defines political ads as including election-related, advocacy and issue ads.

Snap does not ban “attack” ads in general, but its policy  does prohibit attacks relating to a candidate’s personal life.

TIKTOK

The Chinese-owned video app popular with U.S. teenagers does not permit political advertising on the platform.

In an October blog pos, TikTok said that the company wants to make sure the platform continues to feel “light-hearted and irreverent.”

“The nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience,” wrote Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s vice president of global business solutions.

The app, which is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, has recently come under scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over concerns the company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data.

REDDIT

Social network Reddit allows ads related to political issues and it allows ads from political candidates at the federal level, but not for state or local elections.

It also does not allow ads about political issues, elections or candidates outside of the United States.

The company says all political ads must abide by its policies that forbid “deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising” and that prohibit “content that depicts intolerant or overly contentious political or cultural topics or views.”

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft Corp, banned political ads last year. It defines political ads as including “ads advocating for or against a particular candidate or ballot proposition or otherwise intended to influence an election outcome.”

Search engine Bing, which is also owned by Microsoft, does not allow ads with political or election-related content.

PINTEREST

Photo-sharing site Pinterest Inc also banned political campaign ads last year.

This includes advertising for political candidates, political action committees (PACs), legislation, or political issues with the intent to influence an election, according to the site’s ads policy.

“We want to create a positive, welcoming environment for our Pinners and political campaign ads are divisive by nature,” said Pinterest spokeswoman Jamie Favazza, who told Reuters the decision was also part of the company’s strategy to address misinformation.

TWITCH

A spokeswoman for Twitch told Reuters the live-streaming gaming network does not allow political advertising.

The site does not strictly ban all issue-based advertising but the company considers whether an ad could be seen as “political” when it is reviewed, the spokeswoman said.

Twitch, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc, is primarily a video gaming platform but also has channels focused on sports, music and politics. In recent months, political candidates such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have joined the platform ahead of the 2020 election.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; additional reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Berkrot)

High-tech mapping, apps fight deadly dengue outbreak in Honduras – medical charity

High-tech mapping, apps fight deadly dengue outbreak in Honduras – medical charity
By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – High-tech mapping and mobile phone apps are being used to combat dengue fever in Honduras as the Central American nation struggles to fight the worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease on record, medical charity MSF said on Thursday.

Honduras has one of the Americas’ highest incidence rates of dengue, with some 92,000 suspected cases of the infectious disease and 250 deaths recorded this year, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

Across the Americas, more than 2.7 million people have caught the virus and 1,206 have died so far in 2019, making this year’s dengue fever outbreak the highest on record in the region, according to latest PAHO figures.

Medical charity Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said it is using GIS mapping technology and a mobile phone app as key tools to combat the virus and plan their work.

The technology allows health workers to identify dengue hotspots and direct prevention and awareness-raising campaigns to the most-affected areas.

“It allows you to see the evolution of the epidemic in each neighborhood and city and all over the country per day, per week,” said Pascal Olivo, MSF logistics coordinator for Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

“We have adapted our strategy accordingly because we can see the evolution of the epidemic on the maps,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Using a mobile app to record data, about 20 MSF health workers have been asking residents up to 10 questions about the dengue virus and what is being done to prevent its spread in their neighborhoods.

Questions include whether residents have cleaned water tanks and buckets in their homes – ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes – if and when local authorities have carried out fumigation, or whether any relative has caught dengue.

The data, along with the GIS maps produced based on data collected by MSF, health authorities and public hospitals, allows health workers to build a timely geographic overview of areas where the virus is most acute and in need of targeting.

As the region faces new mosquito-borne outbreaks, there is a growing need to find new ways to monitor and reduce the spread of infectious diseases like dengue and Zika, which includes using tech and giving affected communities tech-based solutions.

Aid groups are accordingly embracing technology from geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools, drones and satellite imagery to map areas affected by conflict, disease outbreaks and natural disasters, along with mass vaccination programs.

“In the past two to three years we have seen an evolution in GIS, and it’s used by MSF for almost all emergencies,” Olivo said.

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Gang violence hits Mexican leader’s ratings, U.S. warns of ‘parallel government’

Gang violence hits Mexican leader’s ratings, U.S. warns of ‘parallel government’
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Support for Mexico’s president has fallen some ten percentage points during a surge in gang-related violence, a poll showed on Friday, just as the U.S. ambassador voiced concern about “parallel government” by cartels in parts of the country.

The Nov. 6-11 survey of 1,000 Mexicans for newspaper El Universal showed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had an approval rating of 58.7%, down from 68.7% in late August. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Although Lopez Obrador’s popularity remains strong compared with many world leaders, nearly one year into his administration, skepticism is growing about his performance on the back of several shocking security lapses to recently roil Mexico.

Last month the president took flak from critics when it emerged security forces had released a son of the notorious kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after heavily-armed cartel gunmen overwhelmed security forces and briefly took control of the northern city of Culiacan.

That criticism was compounded by outrage and condemnation of the government from some U.S. lawmakers when suspected cartel gunmen massacred three mothers and six children of dual U.S.-Mexican nationality in northern Mexico last week.

U.S. President Donald Trump has responded by suggesting Mexico should join the United States to fight the cartels, fueling concerns that the American leader could use gang violence to put pressure on the Mexican government as he has over migration.

Speaking on Thursday, the U.S. ambassador in Mexico City, Christopher Landau, offered a terse assessment of the situation, saying there were parts of Mexico in which drug cartels formed a kind of “parallel government”.

“It can’t be that the territory where they have this kind of power continues to expand across the country,” Landau said on Thursday during an event in the northern city of Monterrey in remarks that were later broadcast on television.

“The future of Mexico is so important that if we don’t fight this now, it’s going to get much worse,” he added.

A dozen years of gang-fueled violence have claimed well over 200,000 lives in Mexico and murders hit record levels last year.

Taking office in December, the veteran leftist Lopez Obrador has pledged to address the root causes of crime and is pursuing a less confrontational approach to pacifying the country.

He quickly created a new militarized police force, or National Guard, to tackle the problem. But at the behest of Trump, thousands of its members have been sent to the borders of Mexico to help contain illegal immigration from Central America.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Highway blockade reveals splits in Hong Kong protest movement

By Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters partially unblocked a key highway on Friday and then blocked it again during the evening rush hour, exposing splits in a movement that has been largely leaderless in months of often violent unrest.

Activists closed the Tolo highway this week, clashing with police and throwing debris and petrol bombs on the road linking the largely rural New Territories with the Kowloon peninsula to the south.

They turned the Chinese University campus next door and several other universities into fortresses, stockpiled with petrol bombs and bows and arrows, amid some of the worst violence in the former British colony in decades.

But many protesters left the Chinese University after some allowed the partial reopening of the highway on Friday, taking others by surprise.

“I am disappointed about the decision to reopen the Tolo highway and it’s not our consensus,” one student who gave his name as Cheung, 18, told Reuters.

“I was asleep when they had closed-door meetings. I was worried and scared after I realized what had happened and most protesters had left. I was worried the police might storm in again because so few people are left. Some protesters from the outside have gone too far.”

Most protesters had left by late evening but the road remained closed.

The Cross-Harbour Tunnel, outside the barricaded Polytechnic University where protesters have practised firing bows and arrows and throwing petrol bombs in a half-empty swimming pool, remained shut.

Students and protesters have barricaded at least five campuses in the Chinese-ruled city. Police have kept their distance from the campuses for more than two days, saying both sides should cool off, but many observers are afraid of what will happen if and when they move in.

Activists also littered Nathan Road in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, a frequent venue for protests, with bricks and set a street barricade on fire.

NO LONGER SAFE

The week has seen a marked intensification of the violence.

A 70-year-old street cleaner died on Thursday after being hit on the head by one of several bricks police said had been thrown by “masked rioters”. On Monday, police blamed a “rioter” for dousing a man in petrol and setting him on fire. The victim is in critical condition.

On the same day, police shot a protester in the abdomen. He was in stable condition.

“We can no longer can say Hong Kong is a safe city,” Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung told a briefing.

Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling in the city since it returned to Beijing rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing its colonial-era freedoms. Their demands include full democracy and an independent investigation into perceived police brutality.

China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble. Police say they are acting with restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.

China and Hong Kong both condemned an attack in London on Thursday by a “violent mob” on Hong Kong’s justice secretary, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a “dispute resolution and deal-making hub”, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful”.

The British police said a woman had been taken to hospital with an injury to her arm and that they were investigating but no arrests had been made.

Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter, government data confirmed on Friday, with its economy shrinking by 3.2% from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Organizers of the annual Clockenflap music and arts festival, due to take place from Nov. 22-24, said it had been canceled because of the unrest.

Video footage obtained by Reuters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong’s Central business district showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against people pretending to be protesters carrying black umbrellas.

The PLA has stayed in the barracks since 1997 but China has warned that any attempt at independence will be crushed.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Felix Tam, Twinnie Siu, Jessie Pang, Anne Marie Roantree and Marius Zaharia; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher)

U.S. raps global health summit over abortion, sex education

By Nita Bhalla

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ten countries – including the United States, Brazil and Egypt – criticised a global conference on sexual and reproductive health on Thursday, saying it promoted abortion and sex education.

Heads of state, financial institutions and donors were among the 9,500 delegates in Nairobi this week to address maternal mortality, violence against women and voluntary family planning.

But 10 of the United Nation’s 192 member states said they did not support the International Conference on Population and Development’s (ICPD) use of the term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” as it could be used to promote abortion.

Valerie Huber, senior policy advisor with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said not all countries had been fully consulted ahead of the event, organised by the United Nations, Denmark and Kenya.

“There is no international right to abortion. In fact, international law clearly states that everyone has the right to life,” said Huber.

“We cannot support sex education that fails to adequately engage parents and which promotes abortion as a method of family planning,” she said in a joint statement on behalf of the group.

In 2017, President Donald Trump reinstated a decades-old, U.S. government policy that restricts international aid to charities that support abortion.

The so-called global gag rule has forced the closure of health clinics, outreach programs and refugee services by charities, risking the health of millions of women, reproductive rights experts said.

UNDER ATTACK

Sexual and reproductive rights campaigners said the U.S.-led statement was discouraging with women’s rights already threatened by far-right, populist rhetoric across the world, including moves to restrict abortion in the United States.

The ICPD conference marks 25 years since a landmark summit in Cairo when nations agreed to address issues such as maternal health, violence against women and equal opportunities.

Every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth, according to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). More than 230 million women want to prevent pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.

One in three women globally have faced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the UNFPA.

Organisers of the Nairobi summit denied any suggestion the event was exclusively focused on abortion or sex education.

“I believe their statement is based on some misunderstandings of what this is about,” IB Petersen, Denmark’s special envoy for the ICPD, told a news conference.

“This is not a pro-abortion summit – it is about the ICPD program of action – abortion is part of that.”

Petersen said the summit had already yielded results, citing a pledge by Kenya to end female genital mutilation by 2022.

Almost $10 billion in investments has also been pledged by countries – including Britain, Norway, Germany and Denmark – and a host of private organisations.

The UNFPA estimates countries need about $264 billion to end maternal deaths, gender-based violence, child marriage, and provide family planning to all women by 2030.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Claire Cozens and Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

U.S. and China ‘getting close’ to trade deal: White House economic adviser

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and China are getting close to a trade agreement, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Thursday, citing what he called very constructive talks with Beijing about ending a 16-month trade war.

Kudlow said negotiators for the world’s two largest economies were in close touch via telephone but he gave no further details on the timing of a possible deal.

“We’re getting close,” he told an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “The mood music is pretty good, and that has not always been so in these things.”

The United States and China have been locked in successive waves of tit-for-tat tariffs that have roiled financial markets and threaten to drag growth in the global economy to its lowest rate since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Markets are anxiously awaiting an agreement to end uncertainty that has slowed business investment around the globe. An agreement had appeared likely in May, but those prospects were dashed after U.S. negotiators said China backed away from the text of a draft agreement.

Kudlow’s comments could ease market concerns that flared again this week amid reports that the trade talks had hit a snag over how and when to reduce tariffs, and what level of agricultural purchases could be expected from China.

Markets also soured after U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he could impose substantial new tariffs on China if no deal was reached.

Kudlow told the audience he had just come from a meeting of the top Trump administration trade officials and was more optimistic.

“It’s not done yet, but there has been very good progress and the talks have been very constructive,” he told the event.

He also opened the door to the possibility that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would not need to meet in person to clinch a deal.

Trump had hoped to sign the “phase one” agreement with China on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile this month, but that possibility disappeared after Chile withdrew from hosting the event.

Kudlow said the White House had hoped to stick to that general timetable. He joked that his preference was for the deal to be signed in his office on the second floor of the White House.

“I don’t like to travel,” he quipped.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)

Police look for motive behind California school shooting, two dead

L.A. County Sheriff's Department (LASD) Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) members are pictured after a search following a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, U.S., November 14, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. LASD SEB via REUTERS

Police look for motive behind California school shooting
By Steve Gorman

SANTA CLARITA (Reuters) – Police investigating a high school shooting in California said on Friday they still did not know what motivated the suspect, who killed two classmates and wounded three others before shooting himself in the head and collapsing.

Thursday morning’s shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles, took place in a matter of just seconds. The suspect pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor school courtyard and opened fire.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday that why was the question of the day.

“This kind of came out of the blue,” the sheriff told CNN. “It shocked everyone who knew him.”

Police have not released the name of the suspect, but have said it was his 16th birthday on Thursday. Authorities said he was in grave condition at a hospital.

“He saved the last round for himself,” Villanueva said.

Investigators are looking into the suspect’s past and social media accounts and interviewing people who knew him, the sheriff added.

“We’re still digging,” he said.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation and police do not know yet where the suspect got the weapon, the sheriff said.

Two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said early on Friday.

At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old boy was treated and released, and the other students taken there died.

No names of the wounded or the dead were released yet, but the two slain students were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.

Captain Kent Wegener of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said surveillance video footage showed the suspect opening fire from a single stationary position and shooting his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun on himself.

The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault gun killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group.

Police said the suspect had acted alone. Investigators descended on his family home, blocking off the street. They found no further danger there.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

By Riccardo Bastianello and Emily G Roe

VENICE (Reuters) – An exceptionally high tide hit Venice again on Friday just three days after the city suffered its worst flooding in more than 50 years, leaving squares, shops and hotels once more inundated.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro closed access to the submerged St. Mark’s Square and issued an international appeal for funds, warning that the damage caused by this week’s floods could rise to one billion euros.

Local authorities said the high tide peaked at 154 cm (5.05 ft), slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 187 cm level reached on Tuesday, which was the second highest tide ever recorded in Venice.

But it was still enough to leave 70% of the city under water, fraying the nerves of locals who faced yet another large-scale clean-up operation.

“We have been in this emergency for days and we just can’t put up with it any more,” said Venetian resident Nava Naccara.

The government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating 20 million euros ($22 million) to address the immediate damage, but Brugnaro predicted the costs would be vastly higher and launched a fund to help pay for repairs.

“Venice was destroyed the other day. We are talking about damage totaling a billion euros,” he said in a video.

Sirens wailed across the city from the early morning hours, warning of the impending high tide. Sea water swiftly filled the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica, built more than a thousand years ago.

Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is spread over 118 islands and once presided over a powerful maritime empire. The city is filled with Gothic architectural masterpieces which house paintings by some of Italy’s most important artists.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said initial checks suggested the damage to St. Mark’s was not irreparable, but warned that more than 50 churches across the city had been flooded this week.

“Visiting here you see that the disaster is much bigger than you think when you watch the images on television,” he said.

CLIMATE CHANGE

After Friday’s high waters, forecasters predicted tides of up to 110-120 cm during the weekend. In normal conditions, tides of 80-90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

The mayor has blamed climate change for the ever-increasing flood waters that the city has had to deal with in recent years, with the mean sea level estimated to be more than 20 cm higher than it was a century ago, and set to raise much further.

Groups of volunteers and students arrived in the city center to help businesses mop up, while schools remained closed, as they have been most of the week.

“When you hear the name Venice, it is always like sunsets and everything pretty but it is a bit crazy now that we are here,” said British tourist Chelsea Smart. “I knew it was going to flood … but I didn’t expect it to be this high.”

At the city’s internationally renowned bookshop Acqua Alta — the Italian for high water — staff were trying to dry out thousands of water-damaged books and prints, usually kept in boats, bath tubs and plastic bins.

“The only thing we were able to do was to raise the books as much as possible but unfortunately even that wasn’t enough … about half of the bookshop was completely flooded,” said Oriana, who works in the store.

Some shops stayed open throughout the high tide, welcoming in hardy customers wading through the waters in boots up to their thighs. Other stores remained shuttered, with some owners saying they had no idea when they could resume trade.

“Our electrics are burnt out,” said Nicola Gastaldon, who runs a city-center bar. “This is an old bar and all the woodwork inside is from the 1920s and earlier which we will have to scrub down with fresh water and then clean up again.”

A flood barrier designed to protect Venice from high tides is not expected to start working until the end of 2021, with the project plagued by the sort of problems that have come to characterize major Italian infrastructure programs — corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays.

(Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Rome; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Morales lost Bolivia after shock mutiny by police

Morales lost Bolivia after shock mutiny by police
By Gram Slattery

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Last Friday night, with Bolivia’s most important city paralyzed by demonstrations against leftist President Evo Morales, the police unit tasked with securing the presidential palace met to help decide the nation’s future.

Bolivia for weeks had been gripped by violent protests after Morales declared victory in a disputed election that appeared to give him a fourth straight term. Election monitors said they suspected fraud.

Members of the Police Operations Tactical Unit, known as UTOP, had repeatedly clashed with anti-government protesters armed with sticks, rocks and makeshift bombs. In the courtyard of the unit’s compound that evening, dozens of assembled officers made a decision: They would cease defending Morales and join demonstrators in calling for his resignation.

By Saturday, UTOP forces had abandoned their posts.

Analysts say UTOP’s pivot, part of a wave of police defections across Bolivia, helped doom Morales’ government. Without the support of local law enforcement, his administration could not control Bolivia’s streets. Losing the allegiance of the unit charged with guarding the presidential palace in La Paz, the nation’s administrative capital, was a particularly cutting blow.

The nation’s military, largely passive amid the unrest, quickly signaled that it would not confront the protesters. On Sunday, Williams Kaliman, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said Morales should step down in order to foster “peace and the maintenance of stability in Bolivia.”

By Sunday afternoon, Morales had resigned. On Tuesday, he flew to Mexico, where he had been granted asylum.

Reuters talked with five UTOP police officers who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the press.

They cited various reasons for withdrawing support from Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, who had led the country for nearly 14 years.

Some complained his government had lavished generous salaries and pensions on the armed forces, without offering similar benefits to police. Some said they were ordered by superiors to crack down only on anti-government protesters while avoiding conflict with pro-Morales loyalists. Others said they were simply worn down by weeks of conflict after the president’s controversial Oct. 20 election victory.

“At some point, it was just enough,” one officer said.

Franklin Flores, a congressman with Morales’ socialist MAS party, said the Morales government never used law enforcement for political ends and that police were well treated.

“President Morales has always respected the police and military as institutions,” Flores said. “The Bolivian police, under this government, went around with new trucks, new equipment, appropriate uniforms.”

The episode is key to understanding how Morales lost his grip on power.

A former coca-leaf farmer and Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Morales was an iconic figure of Latin America’s left. He gained admiration for guiding the poor landlocked South American nation through steady growth and relative stability. His government’s social programs pulled millions from poverty.

But over time he alienated some indigenous supporters who had once hailed him as their champion. Morales clashed with native groups over development of tribal lands and constructed an ostentatious new presidential palace that he dubbed the Great House of the People. He also engineered a way around presidential term limits, enraging critics who viewed the move as an authoritarian power grab.

Losing police support spelled the end, said political analyst Franklin Pareja, a professor at Bolivia’s Universidad Mayor de San Andres.

“The government lost its shield,” Pareja said. “As a result, it was totally vulnerable and couldn’t go on.”

Morales has blamed his exit on a “coup” arranged by his political enemies. He has said he would consider returning to Bolivia to help bring peace to a deeply polarized nation in crisis. Supporters of Morales do not recognize the interim government. Street violence and protests continue.

“The most cunning and disastrous coup in history has been carried out,” Morales wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

CIVIC PRESSURE

Signs of trouble for Morales had been building well before this year’s election.

His popularity had slipped amid a softening economy and complaints he had lost touch with his man-of-the-people roots and was now manipulating the levers of power to remain in charge.

Morales first took office for a five-year term in 2006. In 2009, he pushed through a new Constitution that called for early elections that same year, which he won handily. That process effectively re-set the clock on his presidency, allowing him to run for a third term in 2014, even though the Constitution limited presidents to two terms.

Angling for even more time in office, Morales in 2016 held a public referendum asking Bolivians to allow him to run for a fourth term. Voters narrowly rejected it.

But the nation’s Supreme Court, stacked with allies, let him run anyway. In a highly controversial 2017 ruling, they deemed term limits a violation of basic human rights.

Morales said he had been subject to a false, foreign-led smear campaign leading up to the referendum. Supporters have said the Supreme Court decision reflected the will of the people because those judges are elected officials in Bolivia.

Public frustration was on display Oct. 4 in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, a little more than two weeks before the presidential election. Banners in the crowd read “Dictator Evo.” A civic leader named Luis Fernando Camacho gave a fiery speech slamming Morales’ “illegal” government and called on Bolivians to vote him out of office.

As results rolled in on election day, Morales held a narrow lead over his main rival, Carlos Mesa of the Citizens Community party, in a crowded field of nine candidates.

Bolivia’s electoral system requires a run-off between the top two vote-getters if no presidential candidate wins an outright majority or garners at least 40% of votes, while beating their nearest competitor by at least 10 percentage points.

With more than 80% of the votes tallied, Mesa and Morales appeared headed for a second round. But the count was suddenly halted at around 7:30 p.m. The Organization of American States (OAS), which had been invited to observe the election, expressed alarm.

Almost a day later, the count restarted with tallies showing momentum had shifted dramatically in favor of Morales. He cruised to a 10.5-percentage-point victory, eliminating the need for a runoff.

Protests erupted around the country. Opposition supporters blocked roads and staged mass marches, demanding new elections. Major cities were paralyzed.

Amid unrest, civic leader Camacho became a lightning rod for the opposition. He pledged to march into La Paz and hand Morales a resignation letter to sign.

“Evo’s days in office are numbered,” he told Reuters at a Nov. 5 rally.

BREAKING POINT

Morales’ government was weakened, but still in control. He urged Bolivia to await the results of an election audit, which had been initiated by the OAS.

Then came the Nov. 8 police defections.

What started with one mutiny at a police unit in the central city of Cochabamba in the morning quickly spread to the cities of Potosi, Santa Cruz and La Paz.

Rattled, Morales looked to rally his generals, including armed forces chief Kaliman, a long-time ally. He met with defense officials on Friday at the Great House of the People, but they offered little concrete support.

On Saturday, Kaliman said in a statement the armed forces “would never confront the people.”

Another bombshell came on Sunday at dawn. The OAS released its audit, which cited “serious irregularities” in the election, including phantom votes, forged ballots and “clear manipulations” in the count.

The OAS called for the results to be annulled and a new vote scheduled. Morales agreed to those demands, but was rebuffed by opposition leaders.

“Morales wanted to talk, but we didn’t want to. It was too late,” said Susana Campos Elio, an opposition lawmaker from La Paz.

Morales has since said the OAS “is in the service of the North American empire.”

Major backers of Morales started to jump ship.

Juan Carlos Huarachi, head of the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Center union, who days earlier had rallied miners to support the president in La Paz’s central square, gently urged Morales to step down to “pacify the Bolivian people”.

A slew of ruling party lawmakers resigned, including the head of the lower house and mayors of major cities such as Potosi, Oruro and Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital.

Around 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) military support collapsed. The armed forces released a statement “suggesting” that Morales step aside to quell mounting violence.

Shortly afterward, Morales announced in an emotional address that he would resign.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery in La Paz; Additional reporting by Monica Machicao and Daniel Ramos; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Marla Dickerson)