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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Trump vows urgent action after shootings, offers few details

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking out against weekend mass shootings that rocked a nation, President Donald Trump on Monday called for bipartisan solutions to the bloodshed but offered few details and faced pointed questions from Democrats about whether he had the moral authority to rally America against the spasm of violence and racism.

Trump, back at the White House after remaining largely out of view for two days at his New Jersey golf club, declared the shootings in Texas and Ohio barbaric crimes “against all humanity” and called for unity to respond to an epidemic of gun violence. He blamed mental illness and video games but made no mention of more limits on the firearms that can be sold.

Trump said he wanted legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users, though he has reneged on previous promises along that line after mass attacks. He seemed to abandon his latest idea of linking gun control legislation to immigration policy just a few hours after proposing it.

“We vow to act with urgent resolve,” Trump said as the death toll from the shootings in El Paso and Dayton reached 31 late Monday. His scripted remarks included a solitary denunciation of white supremacy , which he has been reluctant to criticize, and he made no mention of the anti-immigration rhetoric found in an online screed posted just before the El Paso attack that mirrored his own incendiary language. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested.

The mayor of El Paso said at a news conference that Trump would visit the city Wednesday, though some local lawmakers and others signalled opposition, and the Federal Aviation Administration advised pilots of a presidential visit to Dayton.

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El Paso deaths climb to 22 as mayor prepares for Trump visit

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The Texas border city jolted by a weekend massacre at a Walmart absorbed more grief Monday as the death toll climbed to 22 and prepared for a visit from President Donald Trump over anger from El Paso residents and local Democratic leaders who say he isn’t welcome and should stay away.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced at a news conference that Trump planned to visit Wednesday, and in an early sign of emotions already running high, immediately defended the decision to welcome the president.

Trump coming to El Paso in wake of the tragedy is unnerving some residents and politicians who said his divisive words are partly to blame. But Margo, a Republican, deflected criticism.

“I want to clarify for the political spin that this is the office of the mayor of El Paso in an official capacity welcoming the office of the president of the United States,” Margo said.

Acknowledging the backlash in the community, Margo added: “I’m already getting the emails and the phone calls.”

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Ohio gunman’s ex-classmates decry missed chances to stop him

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, say he was suspended years ago for compiling a “hit list” and a “rape list,” and questioned how he could have been allowed to buy the military-style weapon used in this weekend’s attack.

The accounts emerged after police said there was nothing in the background of 24-year-old Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing an AR 15-style rifle with an extended ammunition magazine that he used to open fire outside a crowded bar early Sunday. Police on patrol in the entertainment district fatally shot him less than a minute later.

The former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

“There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list,” said the female classmate.

A former cheerleader, the woman said she didn’t really know Betts and was surprised when a police officer called her cellphone during her freshman year to tell her that her name was included on a list of potential targets.

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Asian stocks follow Wall Street lower as trade war worsens

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower on Tuesday after China let its currency sink and halted purchases of U.S. farm goods, fueling fears Beijing’s trade war with President Donald Trump will harm the global economy.

China’s main index lost 2.5% and Tokyo fell 2%. Markets in Hong Kong, Sydney and Seoul also retreated.

Beijing allowed its yuan to fall past the politically sensitive level of seven to the dollar on Monday following Trump’s threat last week to extend punitive tariffs to an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports. Also, the Ministry of Commerce announced it was suspending promised purchases of American farm products.

On Tuesday, the yuan fell further to 7.052 to the dollar in early trading. That came after the U.S. Treasury Department officially labeled Beijing a currency manipulator, a status that opens the way to possible additional sanctions.

“Equities are slumping. They will slump more. Bond yields are tumbling. They will tumble far more,” said Rabobank in a report.

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Trump freezes Venezuela gov’t assets in escalation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration froze all Venezuelan government assets Monday in a dramatic ratcheting up of tensions with Nicolás Maduro that places his socialist administration on a short list of adversaries from Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran that haven been targeted by such aggressive U.S. actions.

The ban blocking Americans from doing business with Maduro’s government, which takes effect immediately, is the first of its kind in the western hemisphere in over three decades, following an asset freeze against Gen. Manuel Noriega’s government in Panama and a trade embargo on the Sandinista leadership in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The executive order signed by President Donald Trump justified the move by citing Maduro’s “continued usurpation of power” and human rights abuses by security forces loyal to him.

While the order falls short of an outright trade embargo, it represents the most sweeping U.S. action to remove Maduro since the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader in January.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton hinted earlier Monday that sweeping U.S. action was close at hand. Speaking to reporters on the eve of an international conference in Peru to show support for Guaidó, he said that the U.S. was readying measures “that will show the determination that the United States has to get a peaceful transfer of power.”

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North Korea fires presumed ballistic missiles as talks stall

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea continued to ramp up its weapons demonstrations by firing two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into the sea Tuesday while lashing out at the United States and South Korea for continuing military exercises that the North says could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy.

North Korea’s fourth round of weapons launches in less than two weeks came amid a standstill in nuclear negotiations and after President Donald Trump repeatedly dismissed the significance of the country’s recent tests despite the threat the weapons pose to ally South Korea and U.S. bases there.

Experts say Trump’s downplaying of the North’s weapons display has allowed the country more room to advance its military capabilities as it attempts to build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could possibly resume sometime after the end of the allies’ drills later this month.

South Korea’s military alerted reporters to the launches minutes before the North’s Foreign Ministry denounced Washington and Seoul over the start of their joint exercises on Monday. The ministry’s statement said the drills, which North Korea sees as an invasion rehearsal, leave the country “compelled to develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defence.”

The statement from an unidentified spokesperson said Pyongyang remains committed to dialogue, but it could seek a “new road” if the allies don’t change their positions.

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Judge sentences man who sent pipe bombs to Dems to 20 years

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida amateur body builder who admitted sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday by a judge who concluded the bombs purposely were not designed to explode.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, wept and crossed himself, appearing relieved, when U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff announced the sentence.

Prosecutors had urged a life prison term for Sayoc, who pleaded guilty earlier this year after mailing 16 pipe bombs days before the midterm elections last fall.

“He hated his victims, he wished them no good, but he was not so lost as to wish them dead, at least not by his own hand,” the judge said.

The one-time stripper and pizza delivery man from Aventura, Florida, apologized to his victims, saying he was “so very sorry for what I did.”

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Online providers knock 8chan offline after mass shooting

BOSTON (AP) — The online message board 8chan was effectively knocked offline Monday after two companies cut off vital technical services following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas , whose perpetrator was linked to the site. 8chan is known for trafficking in anonymous hate speech and incitement of hate crimes.

A racist “manifesto” posted to the site is believed to have been written by the suspect in a Saturday’s killing of 22 people in El Paso, Texas. If it was, it would be the third known instance of a shooter posting to the site before going on a rampage, following mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques in the spring, and another at a California synagogue.

Late Sunday, the security company Cloudflare announced it was cutting off the message board, which has a history of use by violent extremists, for being “a cesspool of hate.”

8chan quickly found a new online host: Sammamish, Washington-based Epik.com, whose site declares it “the Swiss bank of domains.” Epik provides similar support for Gab.com, another social media site frequented by white supremacists that doesn’t ban hate speech.

Gab is where the man accused of massacring 11 people last October in a Pittsburgh synagogue posted anti-Semitic vitriol. Epik also owns the security company BitMitigate, whose clients include the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacist site.

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GateHouse, Gannett to merge for $1.4B, build newspaper giant

NEW YORK (AP) — Two of the largest U.S. newspaper companies have agreed to combine for roughly $1.4 billion, creating a new industry giant that hopes to manage the crisis of print’s decline through sheer size.

GateHouse Media, a fast-growing chain backed by an investment firm, is buying USA Today owner Gannett, promising to speed up a digital transformation as readers shift online. The companies say they are committed to “journalistic excellence” — while also cutting $300 million in costs every year.

The resulting company would be the largest U.S. newspaper company by far, with a print circulation of 8.7 million, 7 million more than the new No. 2, McClatchy, according to media expert Ken Doctor.

Local papers, faced with the complex and expensive process of building digital businesses to replace declines in print ads and circulation, have been consolidating madly in recent years. Although papers with national readerships like The New York Times and The Washington Post have had success adding digital subscribers, local papers with local readerships find it much more difficult. Hundreds of such papers have closed, and newsrooms have slashed jobs.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina, the U.S. has lost almost 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. Newsroom employment fell by a quarter from 2008 to 2018, according to Pew Research, and layoffs have continued this year.

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Family, friends pay final respects to RFK’s granddaughter

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) — Dozens of members of the extended Kennedy clan as well as friends from college filled a Cape Cod church on Monday to pay their final respects to Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old granddaughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy Jr., former Congressman Joe Kennedy Jr., and current U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III served as pallbearers during the funeral Mass held at Our Lady of Victory Church in the Barnstable village of Centerville, not far from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.

Her grandmother, 91-year-old Ethel Kennedy, was also at the funeral.

A private burial was scheduled to follow the Mass.

Hill, who was scheduled to start her senior year at Boston College this fall, was found unresponsive at a home in the compound on Thursday by first responders who were dispatched for reports of an overdose.

The Associated Press