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Cue ‘Law & Order’ dun-dun, because trial starts for widow of Orlando nightclub gunman

Reuters

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By Joey Roulette

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – The federal trial for the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, began on Thursday with the selection of jurors, who will decide whether she aided her husband in one of the deadliest U.S. mass shootings.

Noor Salman, wife of Omar Mateen, is the only person charged in the June 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub and faces up to life in prison if convicted. Mateen, 29, died in an exchange of gunfire with police at the club.

Salman was at home with the couple’s then 3-year-old son at the time of the attack. But prosecutors said she knew of her husband’s plans to launch an attack and did nothing to stop it.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials collect evidence from the parking lot of the Pulse gay night club, the site of a mass shooting days earlier, in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

Some protesters gathered outside the Orlando courthouse Thursday morning held posters encouraging a guilty verdict and calling for the death penalty. The trial could take as long as a month, court officers said.

Although she initially denied the accusations, Salman later told federal investigators she knew that her husband was watching recruitment videos for Islamic State in Iraq and that he had purchased an assault rifle and examined three possible attack locations, they said in court documents.

“The defendant aided and abetted her husband in this mass-murder and repeatedly lied to law enforcement during and after the attack in an effort to obstruct the FBI’s ongoing investigation,” they said in a court filing.

Defense lawyers contend the U.S. government could not show any direct links between Mateen and Islamic State before the attack and has provided no evidence that Salman aided her husband.

“It was Mateen, not Noor, who decided to attack the Pulse Night Club, Mateen who chose to drive to the club, Mateen who purchased the weapon and ammunition, and Mateen who alone carried out the attack,” they said in court filings.

Salman, 31, was indicted on two charges: obstruction of justice for alleged false statements to federal investigators and aiding and abetting Mateen in his attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

In December, the judge denied a request by Salman’s attorneys to hold the proceedings outside of Orlando.

Mateen opened fire shortly after the last call for drinks on the club’s popular Latin night. He gunned down patrons on the dance floor and sprayed bullets at others hiding in bathroom stalls.

Holding hostages during his standoff with police, Mateen claimed allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State militant group before he was fatally shot.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Frances Kerry)

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Starbucks will close 8,000 stores May 29 for racial-bias training

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Starbucks says it will close its 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States for one afternoon to educate employees about racial bias.

“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” he said. “Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”

The announcement follows the controversial arrest of two black men who were waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week after the store manager called the police. They were arrested for trespassing. The customers said they were waiting for another man to arrive. That person arrived at the store just as they were being arrested.

Starbucks’ CEO publicly apologized repeatedly following the arrests, which he called “reprehensible.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, will be among the help to design the program, as will executives from the Equal Justice Initiative and Demos, to roughly 175,000 Starbucks employees.

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8 Facts About the Late, Great Barbara Bush

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Former first lady Barbara Bush died in Houston on Tuesday. She was 92 years old. The wife of former president George H.W. Bush, and mother of former president George W. Bush, had been battling congestive heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had recently decided not to seek any further treatment.

The matriarch of the Bush family was known for her bluntness and advocacy, but many young people know little about her. So, here are 8 straight up facts about the former first lady of the United States.

1. She was born Barbara Pierce in New York City on June 8, 1925.

2. She met met George H.W. Bush at a school dance in 1941, at the age of 16. After dating for a year and a half, the couple got engaged before he went off to World War II to serve as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. When he returned on leave, she dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Mass. and they got married two weeks later on Jan. 6, 1945, in Rye, N.Y.

3. Barbara gave birth to six children: George W. (in 1946), Pauline “Robin” (in 1949), Jeb (in 1953), Neil (in 1955), Marvin (in 1956), and Dorothy (in 1959). She lost her daughter “Robin” at the age of three to leukemia. 

4. She served as second lady of the United States when George H.W. Bush was vice president to Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989. 

5. She alarmed conservatives when she revealed she was pro-choice. 

6. Describing Geraldine Ferraro, her husband’s opponent for vice president in 1984, she said: “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with ‘rich.'”

7. She was first lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993.

8. She helped to develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which seeks to improve literacy in the U.S. through programs directed toward pre-school children and parental literacy while cementing her legacy. She spoke regularly on “Mrs. Bush’s Story Time,” a national radio program that stressed the significance of reading aloud to children. 

Political affiliation aside, the death of Barbara Bush is a reminder that class in Washington is dying, too.

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Meghan Markle Fought Against a Sexist TV Ad When She Was 11 – and Won

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Meghan Markle has the world’s attention.

The American-born actress set to marry Prince Harry in May 2018 has a future of fulfilling philanthropic duties — and maybe even tea parties with the Queen every now and then — to look forward to.

A throwback video of an 11-year-old Markle on a 1993 episode of a Nickelodeon news show, however, proves the future royal was always fit to be a princess fighting for rights of the people.

When watching TV commercials with her classmates and assessing potentially implicit messages for a social studies project, Markle’s spirit for advocacy kicked in. She was disturbed how an ad for dishwashing detergent implied women do all the cleaning.

“I don’t think it’s right for kids to grow up thinking these things — that just Mom does everything,” a young Markle says in the video clip. “It’s always ‘Mom does this,’ and ‘Mom does that.’”

She went on to make a small impact by writing a letter to Proctor & Gamble, which resulted in the company changing the voice-over in the ad to declare “people” were battling to clean instead of women.

The 36-year-old now has a much bigger stage to speak from, which is great news in the fight for equality.

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