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‘I am not going back to school until lawmakers, and the president, change this law’

Reuters

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By Katanga Johnson

Dozens of students and parents from the Florida high school where 17 teens and staff members died in a shooting rampage boarded buses on Tuesday for a trip to the state capital Tallahassee to push for a ban on assault rifles.

Reuters

Last week’s massacre, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history, has inflamed a national debate about gun rights and prompted teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the United States to demand legislative action. The incident has galvanized advocates for stricter gun controls, including many survivors of the shooting.

“I am not going back to school until lawmakers, and the president, change this law,” said Tyra Hemans, an 18-year-old senior, referring to Florida’s law permitting the sale of assault rifles. “Three people I looked to for advice and courage are gone but never forgotten, and for them, I am going to our state capital to tell lawmakers we are tired and exhausted of stupid gun laws.”

Fourteen students and three educators were killed in the Feb. 14 attack at the school in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale. Authorities have charged Nikolas Cruz, 19, with 17 counts of premeditated murder for allegedly returning to the school from which he had been expelled and opening fire with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle.

The youth-led protest movement that erupted within hours of the shooting attracted a prominent celebrity supporter on Tuesday when actor George Clooney and his wife Amal, a human rights lawyer, said they would donate $500,000 to help fund a planned March 24 gun control march in Washington.

Reuters

A Washington Post/ABC News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed 77 percent of Americans believe the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Donald Trump, also a Republican, has not done enough on that front.

Trump said on Tuesday he had signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to draw up regulations banning devices that turn firearms into machine guns, like the bump stock used in October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

MARCHES IN FLORIDA, TENNESSEE

Students in states including Florida and Tennessee staged sympathy protests on Tuesday, according to local media reports. Miami’s WTVJ-TV showed video of about 1,000 teens and adults marching from a high school in Boca Raton to the site of the Parkland shooting, about 12 miles (19 km) to the west.

Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature has taken up at least two bills during its current session intended to provide broader access to guns. On Tuesday the state House turned down an attempt to bring up a bill that would block sales of assault rifles, News Service Florida reported.

State Senator Bill Galvano, the chamber’s next president, called for a bill to limit sales of assault rifles to people at least 21 years old, with some exceptions, up from the current minimum age of 18. The legislature’s current session ends on March 9, leaving little time for a vote.

Current U.S. high school students were born after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in which a pair of teen gunmen killed 13 people. There have been numerous mass shootings, not just in schools, since then in the United States, and students in this age group have grown up in an environment where they regularly train for the possibility of being targeted by a shooter on the loose in school.

Gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and remains one of the nation’s more divisive issues. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found that fewer than seven in 10 Republicans support the idea of a ban on assault weapons, the reverse of Democrats, 71 percent of whom support it. A federal ban on assault weapons, in force for 10 years, expired in 2004.

Funerals continued for the young victims of Wednesday’s attack.

Reuters

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday said it made a rare posthumous letter of acceptance to Peter Wang, a student of the school killed in the shooting. A Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, Wang had aspired to attend the elite academy.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)

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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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