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National

    A strong storm system barreling through the South killed an 8-year-old girl in Florida and threatened to bring tornadoes to large parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia. A tree fell onto a house Friday in Woodville, Florida, south of Tallahassee, killing the girl and injuring a 12-year-old boy, according to the Leon County Sheriff's Office. The office said in a statement that the girl died at a hospital while the boy suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Their names weren't immediately released. The same storm system was blamed for the deaths a day earlier of three people in Mississippi and a woman in Alabama. The threat on Friday shifted farther east, where tornado warnings covered parts of northeast Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, where four suspected tornado touchdowns were reported Friday night. Twisters touched down in Reston, Fredericks Hall, Barham and Forksville. Homes and small structures were damaged, but no injuries were immediately reported. The national Storm Prediction Center said 9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were at a moderate risk of severe weather. The region includes the Charlotte, North Carolina metro area. Torrential downpours, large hail and a few tornadoes were among the hazards, the National Weather Service in Raleigh, North Carolina, warned. Radar readings appeared to show a tornado formed in western Virginia's Franklin County, south of Roanoke, though damage on the ground still must be assessed, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Hysell. In South Carolina, authorities urged motorists to avoid part of Interstate 26 — the main artery from Upstate through Columbia and all the way to Charleston — because downed trees had left the roadway scattered with debris. In Georgia, the storm system knocked down trees, caused flooding and cut off power to tens of thousands of people. A tree came down on an apartment complex in an Atlanta suburb, but only one person reported a minor injury and was treated at the scene, Gwinnett County fire spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In Forsyth County northeast of Atlanta, three firefighters suffered minor injuries when their firetruck overturned during heavy rain and wind, Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers told the newspaper. Meanwhile, hundreds of people cleaned up part of a central Mississippi town hit hard by a tornado on Thursday. Volunteers and family members were swarming the north side of Morton, where the National Weather Service says a twister with winds as high as 132 mph (212 kph) hit a neighborhood. More than 20 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. The town of 3,500 is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Jackson. 'When it stopped, there was nothing left,' Morton resident Sharon Currie told WAPT-TV. 'I was going, 'Oh my God. My house is gone.'' Forecasters confirmed that 14 tornadoes had touched down in Mississippi and damage from the storm system was reported in at least 24 of the state's 82 counties. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency — the second one he has declared in less than a week due to tornadoes. Authorities on Friday reported a third storm-related death in the state. Freddie Mobley, 63, died while helping cut a tree that had fallen on a house, Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris told the Daily Leader of Brookhaven. Mobley had made a few cuts on the tree and backed away when the trunk shifted before he could move, Deputy Coroner Ricky Alford said. Two other people who were driving are being counted as storm-related deaths in Mississippi. A woman also died in Alabama when a tree fell on her mobile home Thursday.
  • A Colorado community will mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on Columbine High School on Saturday with community service projects and a ceremony remembering the 13 people killed by teenage gunmen. Saturday's events in and around the suburban community surrounding Columbine end a three-day slate of somber ceremonies honoring the 12 students and a teacher who were killed and lending support to their families, survivors of the attack and the school's students and staff. The days surrounding the anniversary remain emotionally fraught for survivors of the attack, including hundreds who escaped the building without physical wounds. Some describe their response to the month as an 'April fog,' dominated by their own memories of the sunny Tuesday in April that shocked the world. Since 1999, American schools have tried to prevent a threat that had once been unthinkable. Districts across the country formed teams to assess threats and cooperate with law enforcement on a response. Drills training students to evacuate their school or 'lockdown' and hide from a shooter are routine. School security has become a multibillion-dollar industry, adding specialized doors, surveillance video and other technology. This week brought a new demonstration of that burden as federal authorities led a manhunt for a Florida teen described as 'infatuated' with the 1999 shooting who traveled to Denver on Monday and purchased a shotgun. On Tuesday, authorities published the young woman's name and photo after learning of her obsession with Columbine and the gun purchase. They said she had not made specific threats but dozens of schools, including Columbine, locked their doors Tuesday. More than 400,000 kids stayed home on Wednesday when schools shut down across the metro area. The 18-year-old was discovered dead of an apparent suicide Wednesday morning in the foothills west of Denver, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Columbine. Long-planned events marking the anniversary continued as scheduled, beginning with a Thursday evening church service and a community vigil Friday night at a memorial constructed within sight of the school. The Columbine perpetrators, who took their own lives during the attack, have inspired cult-like admirers including some who have committed other shootings or were prevented from doing so. Officials overseeing security at Columbine and other schools in Jefferson County acknowledged the dark interest this week and warned off those who would treat the school as a destination. 'We are not a place to come visit if you're not a student, if you don't have business there,' John McDonald, security chief for the school district, said Wednesday. 'We're not a tourist attraction and we're not a place for you to come and gain inspiration.' Security remained heightened at Denver-area schools through the week. People who plan to attend the public remembrance ceremony Saturday afternoon at a park near Columbine also have been warned of security checkpoints. The school itself will be closed to the public.
  • Genealogy database Ancestry.com has deleted a controversial commercial criticized by many for romanticizing slavery. >> Read more trending news The ad set in 1800s America depicted a white man asking a black woman named Abigail to “escape to the north” with him. “Will you leave with me?” the man asks, ring in hand. The Ancestry.com video, titled “Inseparable,” ended with an on-screen “marriage certificate” suggesting the couple wed in Canada in 1857. Though the ad originally aired on YouTube on Tuesday, April 2, the video made the rounds on social media this week, prompting accusations of the romanticization of slavery in an era “of chattel slavery that completely disregards its power dynamics & the trauma of sexual exploitation,” Clint Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, tweeted. Other historians, reporters and academics took to social media to call out Ancestry.com’s “reprehensible” commercial. The company made a public apology to the media Thursday as backlash grew. 'Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history,” spokeswoman Gina Spatafore said in a statement. “This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused.” The original video, which directed users to ancestry.ca, has since been removed from YouTube. In 2016, a group of geneticists found in the DNA of 3,726 living African Americans “marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slaveowners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves,” the New York Times reported. As they examined proportions of European DNA in the population, the scientists also noted that X chromosomes, which are inherited in higher percentages from women, had greater African ancestry than other chromosomes, suggesting slaveowners “were raping the women they held captive,” the researchers told the Times. The findings, they reiterated in the study, were “consistent with historical accounts of ‘a marked decline in both interracial sexual coercion and interracial intimacy’ at the end of the Civil War.” The research was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.
  • A Pittsburgh woman has been charged with child endangerment after police found her toddler running around the neighborhood naked. >> Read more trending news When police found the boy’s home, they went inside and discovered it was covered in filth. His mother, who was inside, appeared to be under the influence. Tina Anderson was arrested and is facing three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one count for each of her children, and one drug charge. When police interviewed Anderson's older children, they said they didn't want to live with their mother anymore because the floors were covered in waste and she didn't feed them.
  • A Colorado undersheriff who led the search for a Florida teenager whose actions prompted tightened security at Columbine High School ahead of the 20th anniversary of an attack there that killed 13 people said she likely killed herself before police launched a massive manhunt. Clear Creek County Undersheriff Bruce Snelling told The Denver Post that Sol Pais, 18, likely killed herself Monday evening. Her body was found in the snowy foothills west of Denver on Wednesday, and it appeared that she had been dead for more than 24 hours. 'She had no idea what occurred from late Monday afternoon to Tuesday when a search for her began and to Wednesday when her body was found,' Snelling said. 'The logical likelihood was she was here to end her journey.' A manhunt was launched Tuesday, the day after Pais traveled from Miami to Denver and bought a pump-action shotgun and two boxes of ammunition. FBI officials said they were concerned that she was planning an attack of her own because she was 'infatuated' with the 1999 Columbine shooting. Columbine, which is marking the 20th anniversary of the attack Saturday, locked its doors for several hours Tuesday as authorities combed the area for Pais, and hundreds of schools in the Denver area canceled classes Wednesday as the manhunt intensified. Dean Phillips, agent in charge of the FBI office in Denver, said social media posts and comments she made to others led investigators to see her as a credible threat. Pais did not make threats against a specific school, but her history and purchase of a weapon immediately after arriving in Colorado merited a broad response, officials said. But Snelling said Pais 'didn't have a master plan' to carry out a school shooting. 'She went dark,' he said. 'There was no digital footprint anywhere. No phone. No credit card use. To me, that pointed to a near impossibility that this ill-equipped, 18-year-old teenage woman would fly from sea level in Florida to Colorado and then go up into the mountains with plans to go on a killing spree.' Many questions remain unanswered about Pais, but a friend disputed the contention by authorities that she posed a threat. Adrianna Pete, 19, painted a complex picture of the teen, saying she was deeply troubled, lonely and often talked about suicide but was also brilliant, kind and a talented artist who loved to draw. Pete, a college student in Carleton, Michigan, said she met Pais online two years ago through a mutual friend and quickly developed a friendship involving near-daily communication. They met in person twice, once when Pete traveled to Florida and once when Pais went to Michigan. Pete faulted authorities for overreacting in portraying Pais as a threat based on her activities before her death. 'She never threatened anyone,' Pete said. 'There are no credible threats and only assumptions that she was just because the word Columbine was included.' Pete said Pais had a weird obsession with the Columbine killers but that didn't mean she was planning an attack. The killers were 'someone she could relate to' because they were lonely, not because of their violence, Pete added. An FBI spokeswoman has not responded to a request for more information on Pais' background or her Columbine-related comments that sparked the rapid law enforcement response. ___ Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com
  • A Tinder spokesperson told the The New York Daily News that the dating profile for George Zimmerman has been removed from the app.  >> Read more trending news According to the report, Zimmerman had a phony profile and using a fake name “Carter.” In screen grabs captured by Creative Loafing Tampa, Zimmerman described himself as a self-employed consultant and a graduate from Liberty University. According to The Washington Post, Zimmerman was blocked and banned from Bumble in 2018. Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013 of second-degree murder after fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking back from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • What began as a passion project and then became a new company is now the focus of a bill that has moved through the Washington State Legislature.  Senate Bill 5001 would allow for human composting, also known as “recomposition” in Washington. The state House approved the bill on Friday, and it is now just a Gov. Inslee signature away from becoming law.  Katrina Spade is the CEO of “Recompose,” the company aiming to be the first to build a facility for human composting.  “There’s really only two options for when we die: cremation and burial. Neither (of those options) felt particularly meaningful to and I think if that’s the case, it’s true for others as well.” Katrina has spent years working to gain support for human composting, most recently with Dr. Lynne Carpenter at the Soil Science Department at Washington State University. “They’ve already done lots of research about the safe and effective ways to recycle animals back to the land on farms.”  A process familiar to Washington’s large agricultural communities became the focus of a new study at WSU, using the bodies of six human donors. “We proved recomposition was indeed safe and effective for humans as well.” The process is likely more environmentally friendly in a state where 70% of people choose cremation. “Recomposition uses an 1/8th of the energy cremation usesand saves just over a metric ton of carbon dioxide per person who chooses it, so that’s pretty significant,” Spade said.  The process would be done in special facilities, where the body would be transported after death. Katrina explained how the process works: “(The) body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil.” During that time, families will be able to visit the facility and, in the end, receive the soil that remains, to use as they choose. “And if they don’t want that soil, we’ll partner with local conservation groups around the Puget Sound region so that that soil will be used to nourish the land here in the state,” said Spade. As for the cost, the average burial can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000. Cremation can cost up to $6,000. Spade expects Recompose to charge around $5,500. Leslie Christian is among the thousands of people who’ve expressed interest in recomposition. “Recomposition is way more attractive to me from an environmental perspective and from an emotional perspective.” She’s received the mixed reactions one would expect from an idea that has to do with an alternative to traditional end-of-life choices.  She said her brother told her, “Oh, great, you can plant tomatoes in me,” and a friend said “Oh, ick.” “Sometimes, people just need to think about it. It doesn’t feel odd or weird for a body to return to the earth in a very, very natural way,” Christian said. She and her partner have already changed their estate plan to choose recomposition if it becomes legal. During recent legislative hearings, Spade has shared letters of support from religious leaders around the state. “I’ve spoken with many religious leaders around the state for whom this option is really meaningful and could be a beautiful fit for their congregation,” she said.  She said it’s important to engage with leaders in the funeral industry.  'They’ve been serving families for decades and so understanding what they know (about) both how families desires have changed over the last several decades and the best way to serve people, those are important things for us to understand,” Spade said.  For both Christian and Spade, the idea behind recomposition has also opened up the conversation about a topic that’s not always easy.  “I think we have a large baby boomer population that’s aging and seeing their parents die and sort of thinking, ‘Is that the best life experience that my mom or dad could have had?’” said Spade.  Christian agrees, saying, “I have realized that the conversations about death are making my life so much more happy and rewarding and I think that’s a huge piece of what the world needs.” The State Senate passed SB 5001 on Jan. 30. A companion bill passed through the state House on April 19. If Inslee signs the bill, Spade hopes to start work on designing the facility by 2020.
  • A letter of resignation written by a young South Carolina teacher is resonating with others in her position after it went viral. >> Read more trending news Sarah McCall had been teaching for five years in Charleston County when she decided to quit last November. The Washington Post published the letter and spoke to McCall about what led to her decision. In the letter, McCall outlined long, unpaid work hours after the school day ended, unrealistic expectations and a lack of time for planning or basic bodily functions like bathroom breaks. 'The only things keeping me from resigning until now were the love I have for my students, the love I have for the act of teaching, and the heavy guilt I feel for my children being negatively impacted by this in any way: emotionally or academically,” she wrote. “However, I cannot set myself on fire to keep someone else warm.' McCall, who has a master's degree, now lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she waits tables. She said the hours are shorter and the pay is better.
  • U.S. Coast Guard crews offloaded hundreds of pounds of drugs seized in the Caribbean Sea last week. >> Read more trending news The haul -- 550 pounds of marijuana -- was brought to South Florida by the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Raymond Evans and offloaded Thursday at the Coast Guard base in Miami Beach. A Coast Guard spokesperson said the operation involved three smuggling vessels off the coast of Jamaica, Haiti and Colombia. “This was our first deployment outside of the Florida Straits in 18 months, and I’m extremely proud of my crew for the work they did over the past few weeks to make this patrol successful,' said Lt. Patrick Frost, commanding officer of the Raymond Evans, in a statement. 'It was exciting to exercise the capabilities of the fast response cutter in the Caribbean counter-drug narcotics mission, and we’re honored to have played a role in the first drug interdiction for Raymond Evans.” This was a joint operation with the Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard cutter Spencer, which seized 970 pounds of cocaine off the coast of Colombia, officials said. Officials said the drugs have a wholesale value around $13.5 million. The operation is part of a Coast Guard mission to disrupt criminal organizations in the Caribbean Sea and secure water along the southern U.S. border, according to a release.
  • A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Trump administration failed to consider potential damage to the environment from its decision to resume coal sales from U.S. lands, but the court stopped short of halting future sales. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana said Interior Department officials had wrongly avoided an environmental review of their action by describing it 'as a mere policy shift.' In so doing, officials ignored the environmental effects of selling huge volumes of coal from public lands, the judge said. The ruling marks another in a string of judicial setbacks for President Donald Trump's attempts to boost North American energy production. A previous order from Morris blocked the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport crude from Canada's oil sands. Other courts have issued rulings against the administration's plans for oil and gas leasing and coal mining. More than 40 percent of U.S. coal is mined from federal lands, primarily in Western states. Companies have mined about 4 billion tons of coal from federal reserves in the past decade, contributing $10 billion to federal and state coffers through royalties and other payments. The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on most federal coal sales in 2016. The move followed concerns that low royalty rates paid by mining companies were shortchanging taxpayers and that burning the fuel was making climate change worse. President Donald Trump lifted the moratorium in March 2017 as part of his efforts to revitalize the slumping coal industry. 'The moratorium provided protections on public lands for more than 14 months,' Morris said in Friday's 34-page order. He added that lifting the moratorium was a 'major federal action' sufficient to trigger requirements for a detailed analysis of its environmental impacts. Morris ordered government attorneys to enter negotiations with states, tribal officials and environmental groups in order to determine the next steps in the case. 'The court held clearly that the Trump administration needs to rationally consider the consequences of its decision. Those include dire impacts to clean water, public health and our climate,' said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine, who represents environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, which had sued to stop the lease sales. The attorneys general of California, New Mexico, New York and Washington, all Democrats, also had sued over the resumption of the federal coal lease program. They said it should not have been revived without studying what's best for the environment and for taxpayers. Interior Department spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said the agency is reviewing the ruling. In February, Interior officials had announced a sale of coal leases on public lands in Utah by issuing a statement headlined 'The War on Coal is Over.' They said the sale would not have been possible if the administration had not overturned the moratorium. The department's Bureau of Land Management administers about 300 coal leases in 10 states. Most of that coal — 85 percent — comes from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Other states with significant federal coal reserves include Colorado and New Mexico. Production and combustion of coal from federal lands accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2014. ___ Follow Matthew Brown at https://twitter.com/matthewbrownap