Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment at 12:20 a.m. EDT

April 11, 2017 - 12:22 am

TILLERSON-SYRIA

US seeks support on Syria, but big questions remain

LUCCA, Italy (AP) — The United States struggled Monday to explain a Syria strategy that has yet to clarify key questions: Whether President Bashar Assad must go, how displaced Syrians will be protected and when America will feel compelled to take action.

Successive attempts by top Trump administration officials to articulate the plan have only furthered the appearance of a policy still evolving, even after the U.S. broke with precedent last week by attacking Assad's forces. In the absence of answers, other countries seem to be moving ahead on their own terms.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, after a meeting in Italy with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, floated the possibility of new sanctions on both the Syrian and Russian militaries — a step the U.S. hadn't yet proposed publicly. In an unusual announcement for a foreign government to make, Johnson also said the U.S. could launch more cruise missiles into Syria like the ones President Donald Trump ordered to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.

The Trump administration is seeking support from abroad. But attempts by U.S. officials to articulate the plan have only furthered the appearance of a policy still evolving. That's even after the U.S. broke with precedent last week by attacking Assad's forces. In the absence of answers, other countries seem to be moving ahead on their own.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, after a meeting in Italy with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, floated the possibility of new sanctions on both the Syrian and Russian militaries.

UNITED STATES-SYRIA-MILITARY

Official: Russia knew in advance of Syrian chemical attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior U.S. official says the United States has concluded that Russia knew in advance of Syria's chemical weapons attack last week.

The official says a Russian-operated drone flew over a hospital in Syria as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment.

Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.

Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren't sure if the drone was operated by Russia or Syria. The senior official said it still wasn't clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital.

The official said the presence of the drone couldn't have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.

The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters and demanded anonymity.

SCHOOL SHOOTING-SAN BERNARDINO-THE LATEST

The Latest: Girl recounts seeing friend, teacher get shot

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — People have gathered at a vigil to pray for everyone affected by a murder-suicide at an elementary school in San Bernardino.

The vigil at Our Lady of the Assumption Church on Monday night came hours after a man walked into his estranged wife's North Park Elementary School classroom and opened fire without saying a word, killing her and an 8-year-old student before shooting himself in a murder-suicide. The incident spread panic across a city still recovering emotionally from a terror attack just 15 months ago.

A 9-year-old student also was critically wounded. He and the boy who died were behind their special-education teacher, Karen Elaine Smith, 53, the target of the man she had married months earlier, police said.

The shooting left hundreds of distraught parents waiting for hours to reunite with their children.

Staffers knew Cedric Anderson, who had been estranged from his wife for about a month, and he got into the school by saying he had to drop something off for Smith, officials said.

Anderson had a history of weapons, domestic violence and possible drug charges that predated the short marriage, authorities said.

UNITED-PASSENGER REMOVED-THE LATEST

The Latest: United CEO defends employees in plane incident

CHICAGO (AP) — The CEO of United Airlines' parent company is supporting the way his employees handled an incident with a passenger who did not want to go after being asked to leave a plane on Sunday night at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

In a letter to employees Monday evening, Oscar Munoz said he was "upset to see and hear about what happened." He added, however, that the man dragged off the plane had ignored requests by crew members to leave and became "disruptive and belligerent," making it necessary to call airport police.

"Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this," Munoz told employees. "While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."

Munoz said that the airline might learn from the experience, and it was continuing to look into the incident.

VOTING RIGHTS-TEXAS

Judge again finds discrimination in Texas' voter ID law

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A judge has ruled for a second time that Texas' strict voter ID law was intentionally crafted to discriminate against minorities.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi on Monday comes more than two years after she likened the ballot-box rules in Texas to a "poll tax" meant to suppress minority voters.

She is still holding to that conclusion after an appeals court asked her to go back and re-examine her findings.

The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven forms of identification at the ballot box. That list includes concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs.

A court forced Texas last year to provide more flexibility under the law for the November elections.

SUPREME COURT-GORSUCH-THE LATEST

The Latest: With Gorsuch, high court takes conservative tilt

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Neil Gorsuch is taking his place in history as the newest addition on the bench of the Supreme Court.

With the swearing-in of Gorsuch, the court returns to a narrow conservative majority and President Donald Trump scores a much-needed political victor.

The swearing-in ceremony Monday morning in the Rose Garden of the White House came nearly 14 months after the seat was left vacant with the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the oath to Gorsuch, his former law clerk. A smiling Trump stood behind his nominee.

The White House ceremony was the second of two oaths, the first conducted privately in the Justices' Conference Room by Chief Justice John Roberts.

WCUP 2026-BID

US, Mexico, Canada launch bid for soccer's 2026 World Cup

The United States, Mexico and Canada have launched their bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup.

The joint bid was announced on Monday atop the Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan by the heads of the American, Mexican and Canadian federations.

They are seeking to host the first World Cup with an expanded 48-nation field. That's double the size of the last World Cup in North America in 1994 when the U.S. was the only host.

No rival bid has emerged for the 2026 tournament, which is due to be awarded by FIFA in 2020.

FIFA rules currently rule out bidders from Europe and Asia because Russia is staging the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar has the showpiece in 2022.

ARKANSAS EXECUTIONS-THE LATEST

The Latest: Arkansas board rejects inmate's clemency bid

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Parole Board has recommended the governor move forward with plans to execute one of seven inmates facing lethal injection later this month.

The board on Monday voted 7-0 that the clemency request by Jack Harold Jones Jr. was without merit. The ultimate decision on whether to spare Jones' life rests with Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Jones is one of seven inmates scheduled to die this month. His execution is set for April 24.

Jones requested clemency, but declined to appear before the board for his hearing Friday. In a handwritten letter read by his attorney, Jones said he would decline clemency if granted by the governor.

Jones was convicted of killing bookkeeper Mary Phillips and trying to kill her daughter, Lacy, during a 1995 robbery at an accounting office.

CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING-THE LATEST

The Latest: Charleston church killer gets life in state case

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof has been given nine life sentences for the 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME Church in exchange for his guilty plea in state court.

The plea entered Monday by the self-avowed white supremacist marks the end of his court cases and signals his departure for the federal prison system, where he'll await execution.

The deal with state prosecutors spared his victims and their families the burden of a second trial.

The 23-year-old Roof was sentenced to death earlier this year on 33 federal crimes. He was unapologetic during that trial as he listened to survivors and relatives describe the hail of bullets that began when parishioners closed their eyes to pray during a June 2015 Bible study at the historically black Emanuel AME Church.

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