The Latest: US pulling out last of Caracas embassy staff

The latest on Venezuela’s political and economic crisis (all times local):

12:20 a.m. Tuesday

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is withdrawing the last of its staff from its embassy in Venezuela, citing the deteriorating situation. 

Pompeo announced the decision late Monday as Venezuela struggles to restore electricity following four days of blackouts around the country and a deepening political crisis. 

The U.S. has led an international effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who vows to hold new a presidential election. 

Guaido is backed by some 50 countries, while Maduro maintains support from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba. 

Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave in late January but then backed off. 

Pompeo says the remaining diplomats in Venezuela will be removed by the end of the week. 


6:15 p.m.

The widespread blackouts in Venezuela have brought oil exports to a halt, and financial experts say that is costing the cash-strapped country millions of dollars a day.

Russ Dallen is a Miami-based partner at the brokerage firm Caracas Capital Markets Dallen and he said Monday that Venezuela hasn’t shipped $358 million in oil since the nationwide power failures hit Thursday evening. He said that “the whole system is grinding to a halt.”

Dallen says two large tankers are sitting empty at the Jose offshore oil-loading dock because of the nationwide power failure and at least 19 other ships are waiting their turns there.

The socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro contends the outage was caused by a cyberattack launched from the United States, which seeks to replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido.


5:55 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is lashing out at Cuba and Russia for continuing to support Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, saying they are contributing to his country’s economic crisis.

Pompeo says Cuba and Russia are directly responsible for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

He says that Cuba is the “true imperialist power” in Venezuela. Cuba has made the same accusation against the United States, alleging that the U.S. is after Venezuela’s oil.

But Pompeo told reporters at the State Department on Monday that the U.S. is interested only in the welfare of the Venezuelan people. Pompeo also rejected allegations that the U.S. is responsible for crippling power outages that have hit Venezuela since Thursday.


1:10 p.m.

Spain’s airline pilots union has asked for Spanish airline Air Europa to stop flying to Venezuela after one of its crews was attacked at gunpoint in Caracas.

The Sepla union said Monday that two pilots and eight more crew members of a flight from Madrid were assaulted on Saturday while going from the airport to their hotel in the Venezuelan capital.

The crew told the union that their van was surrounded by men on three motorbikes who later fled after an exchange of gunfire with a person the crew believed to be a plainclothes police officer. None of the crew members was injured.

The union says Air Europa responded to the attack by ordering the crews of flights to Venezuela to not spend the night in the country.


12:30 p.m.

Witnesses say an explosion occurred at a power station in the Venezuelan capital as days of nationwide power cuts imposed increasing hardship on the country.

Flames rose from the electrical facility in the Baruta area of Caracas early Monday, contributing to a sense of chaos among Venezuelans already struggling with an economic crisis and a bitter political standoff.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says three of four electricity transformers servicing the area were knocked out and that state engineers are unable to fix them. The U.S.-backed leader of the National Assembly has blamed the blackouts that began Thursday on alleged government corruption and mismanagement.

President Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, has accused Guaido and the United States of staging a “cyberattack” on Venezuela’s power grid. The U.S. dismisses the allegation.

The Latest: Indonesia: Lobbying led to Siti Aisyah’s release

The Latest on the dropping of murder charge against the Indonesian suspect in the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

Indonesia’s government says its continual high-level lobbying resulted in the release of the Indonesian woman who was charged with the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Monday that Siti Aisyah was “deceived and did not realize at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence.”

It said Aisyah, a migrant worker, believed that she was part of a reality TV show and never had any intention of killing Kim Jong Nam.

The ministry said Malaysia’s attorney general used his authority under Malaysia’s criminal procedure code to not continue the prosecution.

It said Aisyah’s plight was raised in “every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting, both at the President’s level, the Vice-President and regular meetings of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other Ministers with their Malaysian partners.”


10:20 a.m.

Malaysian prosecutors have withdrawn the murder charge against the Indonesian suspect in the killing of the North Korean leader’s half brother.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad didn’t give a reason for dropping the charge against Siti Aisyah. It was not yet clear in Monday’s court proceedings if she would be charged with a lower count.

Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said she should be acquitted as the prosecution case against her has closed.

A High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.

Aisyah’s defense had been put on hold while a court heard arguments over obtaining a witness statement.

A 9-year-old Fresno boy is missing — the fourth missing child in recent days

A 9-year-old Fresno schoolboy was reported missing Friday after he ran away from his elementary school in central Fresno, making him the fourth missing minor made public by authorities in recent days.

Kayden Taylor, a student at Williams Elementary School, reportedly became upset during a counseling session and ran from the school, at 525 W. Saginaw Way. Police confirmed Saturday he has not been found.

He was last wearing a gray T-shirt with a bear on the front, light blue jeans and gray velcro shoes. He is 4-feet-10 inches tall and weighs approximately 75 pounds.

Taylor is one of four children reported missing by Fresno County authorities in the past few days.

Two minors from the Sanger area were reported as runaways. They are Kaycee Alcaraz, 15, and Denzel Lizardo, 13. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said there is no information that shows the teens are in danger.

Alcaraz was last seen Thursday and Lizardo was last seen on March 1.

A Fresno teen with Asperger’s syndrome has also been reported missing by family. Marissa Wilkerson is a seventh-grader at Tenaya Middle School in northwest Fresno. Her mother spoke to The Bee, and said the girl has a history of depression. She was last seen last Sunday.

Anyone with information on Kayden or Wilkerson is asked to call Fresno police at 559-621-7000. Anyone with information on Lizardo or Alcaraz is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 559-600-3111.

NCAA can claim victory after losing federal antitrust case

The NCAA was able to claim victory Friday night after a judge ruled against the governing body for college sports in a federal antitrust lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, said college football and men’s and women’s basketball players competing at the NCAA’s highest level should be permitted to receive compensation from schools beyond the current athletic scholarship, but only if the benefits are tied to education.

The NCAA cannot “limit compensation or benefits related to education,” Wilken wrote. That opens the door to athletes receiving more scholarship money to pursue postgraduate degrees, finish undergraduate degrees or study abroad. The NCAA could not, under the court’s injunction, limit schools if they choose to provide athletes items that could be considered school supplies such as computers, science equipment or musical instruments.

“Technically the plaintiffs won the case and the NCAA will not be happy that they were found to be in violation of antitrust law, but ultimately this allows the NCAA to keep the bulk of their amateurism rules in place,” said Gabe Feldman director of the Tulane University sports law program.

The plaintiffs in the so-called Alston cases were seeking much more.

Plaintiffs had asked the judge to lift all NCAA caps on compensation and strike down all rules prohibiting schools from giving athletes in revenue-generating sports more financial incentives for competing. The goal was to create a free market, where conferences set rules for compensating athletes, but this ruling still allows the NCAA to prohibit cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses.

The claim against the NCAA and the 11 conferences that have participated in the Football Bowl Subdivision was originally brought by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. It was later merged with similar lawsuits, including a notable case brought by former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins.

Plaintiffs argued the NCAA illegally restricts schools from compensating football and men’s and women’s basketball players beyond what is traditionally covered by a scholarship. That includes tuition, room and board and books, plus a cost-of-attendance stipend to cover incidentals such as travel.

Plaintiffs touted the ruling as “monumental.”

“We have proven to the court that the NCAA’s weak justifications for this unfair system are based on a self-serving mythology that does not match the facts,” said Steve Berman, the Seattle-based lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “Today’s ruling will change college sports as we know it, forever.”

Feldman, though, said: “The remedy is relatively narrow and this is certainly not the sea change that the plaintiffs were looking for in college sports,”

The NCAA argued altering amateurism rules would lead to pay-for-play, fundamentally damaging college sports and harming academic integration of athletes.

“The court’s decision recognizes that college sports should be played by student-athletes, not by paid professionals,” NCAA chief legal counsel Donald Remy said in a statement. “The decision acknowledges that the popularity of college sports stems in part from the fact that these athletes are indeed students, who must not be paid unlimited cash sums unrelated to education. NCAA rules actively provide a pathway for tens of thousands of student-athletes each year to receive a college education debt-free.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already said it expects to take the case. It is possible the injunction will be stayed until the Ninth Circuit rules. Feldman said both sides could have incentive to appeal the ruling.

“We believe the ruling is inconsistent with the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in O’Bannon,” Remy said. “That decision held that the rules governing college athletics would be better developed outside the courtroom, including rules around the education-related support that schools provide.”

Wilken is the same judge who ruled on the so-called O’Bannon case, which challenged the NCAA’s right to use athletes’ names, images and likenesses without compensation. The case also produced a mixed ruling that eventually went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In O’Bannon, Wilken ruled schools should be permitted, but not required, to compensate athletes for use of their name, image and likeness, with payments capped at $5,000 per year. The appeals court overturned that and said payments “untethered” to education were not required by schools.”

Wilken also ruled the NCAA was required to allow schools to factor in their federally determined cost of attendance into the value of an athletic scholarship. That is now common practice in major college sports, though schools were already moving toward NCAA legislation allowing for cost of attendance when Wilken made her ruling.

The plaintiffs argued in the Alston case that implementation of cost-of-attendance stipends prove paying athletes even more would not hurt college sports.


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Large funnel cloud spotted over Hanford. Did it touch down?

A skinny funnel cloud was spotted rotating northeast of Hanford on Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Meteorologist Jim Dudley said the funnel cloud hovered near Hanford and then cleared away as a storm cell moved toward Kingsburg.

The storm cell also produced rain. The funnel cloud was captured on video by several people online. And it was visible from the weather station in Hanford.

“For a funnel cloud, it was very long and had a very skinny appearance,” Dudley said. “It wasn’t dangerous, other than it was very interesting to watch.”

Tom Pender caught footage of the cloud and shared the images on Twitter.

The cloud was spotted at about 5:19 p.m. and lasted about 10 minutes, Dudley said. It did not threaten any structures and it is not believed that it touched down anywhere.

The storm cell that produced the funnel cloud was moving north about 15 mph, but the potential for new funnel clouds was low, Dudley said. He said there was another possible sighting Thursday near Patterson in western Stanislaus County.

There have been six tornadoes in the central San Joaquin Valley over the past six weeks.

Carlos Molina, Hanford meteorologist, said this weather is typical for the time of the year as the spring season nears, but the funnel cloud and tornado activity has been noteworthy.

“We’ve been in an unsettled weather pattern,” said Molina, noting that the frequency of storms has increased since the start of the year.

Normally there would be one storm per week, he said, but lately that number has grown to about three per week, and with each one is the chance of funnel cloud or tornado. Historically, March is the busiest year for tornado weather in the central Valley, Molina said.

What causes that is what meteorologists call “convective” weather storms. Molina said that means that heat from the warm ground rises and mixes with the colder air above.

“It creates an air current that forces things to go up. When you get that forced air … that produces a convective storm,” Molina said.

This year the funnel cloud sightings have increased in the eastern portion of the Valley, while in previous seasons they mostly stayed on the west side and out of view of much of the population.

The majority of funnel clouds don’t touch the ground, and those that have this year were upgraded to tornadoes. They have mostly been graded EF0, which is least dangerous.

An EF1 tornado did touch down in Clovis on Jan. 17 and damaged a barn, according to Andy Bollenbacher.

He previously told The Bee that while the latest tornado sightings have been in rural areas, “It’s important for people not to believe that they’re completely impervious” to that weather in large population areas.

Push for more renewable energy clears New Mexico Senate

A measure requiring New Mexico utilities to produce carbon-free electricity by 2045 has cleared a major legislative hurdle.

The Senate voted 32-9 late Wednesday, sending the bill to the House for consideration as lawmakers prepare to wrap up the session in less than two weeks.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports the measure, saying it represents a compromise.

Aside from setting aggressive quotas for renewable energy production, the bill would allow the state’s largest electric provider and other owners of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station to recover investments by selling bonds that are later paid off by utility customers.

Some lawmakers reiterated concerns during a lengthy debate that protections are lacking for San Juan County, which has warned of dire economic consequences once the plant and its adjacent mine are closed in 2022.

Live updates: Chaos erupts at City Council meeting; police chief not ready to answer questions

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At a raucous meeting Tuesday night, the Sacramento City Council heard from residents who were enraged by the police’s reaction to a protest Monday night.

Police ended a Stephon Clark march in East Sacramento by arresting protesters on a bridge over Highway 50. Police arrested 84 people Monday night, including 78 on the bridge.

After about an hour of public comments, Alexander Clark told Mayor Darrell Steinberg to “shut the f— up.” Clark told Steinberg that Steinberg didn’t care about Stephon Clark. Clark refused to return to the audience after going over his allotted time.

He then jumped up on the lectern screaming as council members attempted to call forward the next speaker.

Police swarmed Clark as Steinberg called out “leave him alone” while audience members began chants repeating Stephon Clark’s name.

Steinberg ordered a recess of the meeting and councilors left the room. The audience loudly debated how to move forward amongst themselves for about 15 minutes while waiting for the council to return and the meeting to resume.

In one corner of the council meeting, someone had pulled the drapes down.

“What just occurred is you expressed the level of trauma that you’ve been experienced here by the militarized display of our law enforcement,” Rev. Kevin Ross said, urging the crowd to be calm and to resume speaking to the council in an orderly fashion.

Ross and other faith leaders eventually got the crowd to settle down. Council members returned to their spots and resumed hearing comments from the public.

“We can’t have what just happened happen again. In other words we’re OK,” Steinberg told the audience.

Public comments: ‘You need to wipe those citations away.’

8:50 p.m.: After a commenter demanded that Steinberg say Stephon Clark’s name and he didn’t comply, the mayor walked out of the council chambers as many people in the audience walked out in response.

“Bye, Darrell,” one man said as the next speaker took the lectern to address Vice Mayor Eric Guerra.

Steinberg reentered a few minutes later and council members attempted to adjourn the meeting, saying they had run out of speaker slips, but allowed another speaker to talk.

“We listened to the people tonight for almost four hours,” Steinberg said afterward, but allowed one final speaker her three minutes.

By 8:50, the council was packing up to leave as the final speaker shouted into the rapidly emptying chamber.

8:15 p.m.: Betty Williams, president of the Greater Sacramento NAACP, said she saw several detained Sacramento State students trembling with fear and the organization got so many calls for help Monday night that their system crashed.

She called on the council to support AB 392 and asked that officers involved in deadly shootings be investigated more thoroughly.

“When this happens again – and it will – to do the toxicology of police officers,” Williams said, referencing Stephon Clark’s toxicology reports released in Schubert’s investigation.

“My last word to you, mayor and City Council: it ain’t over,” she said.

7:55 p.m.: A woman told the council she was just walking home through East Sacramento on Monday night when she got caught up in the protest. Officers put her in a painful wrist lock, she said.

“My hands were bent until I screamed, until tears flowed out of my eyes and I said you’re hurting me,” she said. “The officers said to shut up. I said, ‘I’ll shut up when you stop hurting me.’”

“I need you to work on getting these charges dismissed,” she said.

The woman was followed by Brandy Wood, who said the police broke her ankle at the protest Monday night.

“My bone is broke!” she said after limping to the dais on crutches. “An officer assaulted me with his bike. It obviously wan’t a bump if my bone got broke.”

7:23 p.m.: After the crowd erupted into chants of “Drop the charges! Fire the officers,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg got into a back and forth with some protesters about who was next allowed to speak.

“Excuse me! You’re not running the meeting. I’m running the meeting here!” Steinberg said before simmering down and letting the speaker the crowd wanted, Ryan McClinton speak, though it wasn’t his official turn.

McClinton urged the council to vote to support pending legislation pertaining to police shootings.

7:03 p.m.: The Rev. Shane Harris of The People’s Alliance said no progress has been made in the year since Stephon Clark was shot and killed.

“Not only locally, nationally, we are ready to mobilize because local prosecutors investigating local police is a conflict of interest and Schubert knows it,” he said. He was among those who were arrested Monday evening.

He read a list of demands, including the firing of Chief Hahn, the firing of the officers who killed Stephon Clark, an increase in oversight powers of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission and the adoption of AB 392, which would restrict police officers ability to use force.

6:23 p.m.: Mayor Darrell Steinberg reminded the crowd all speakers are only allowed three minutes of testimony. Someone in crowd shouted out: “How many minutes does Stephon get?” It was followed by shouts and applause.

One of the more raucous testimonies so far came from Wanda Cleveland, a longtime activist in Sacramento who was struck by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s patrol vehicle last year at a Stephon Clark protest, suffering minor injuries.

“Good evening, you’ve declared war on your citizens again,” she said, before saying she didn’t attend Monday’s protest because she would have been so angry she would have fought the officers. “Do you know what they did to me?” she screamed from the dais. “Each and every one of you are guilty for allowing your cops to beat us up!”

6:14 p.m.: A group of about 50 people had gathered outside City Hall, with officials moving them in as others left. Steinberg said he would get everybody inside who wanted to speak.

Keith Jouganatos said protesters were beaten, harassed and abused, and zip-tied “like cattle.”

“What occurred last night was one of the darkest nights this city has ever had to endure,” he said.

He asked Chief Hahn to hold officers accountable for their actions and said the community no longer had trust in the police department.

6:03 p.m.: Attorney Amar Shergill urged the council to rescind the citations received by the 84 protesters Monday night who were accused of failing to disperse.

“You need to wipe those citations away,” Shergill said, before criticizing District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert for releasing information about Clark’s tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend and their text messages.

“Why was she telling all the personal details about that poor man who was shot and killed by our law enforcement? Why wasn’t she talking about the state of mind of those officers?”

Several commenters claimed police used violence against marchers. One woman said she saw detainees whose wrists were bleeding from zip ties fastened too tight. Multiple people said they had seen a man with his arm in a sling due to a dislocated joint.

“I was legitimately afraid,” said Sadalia King of being among the protesters arrested Monday night in wealthy East Sacramento. “It was a weird space to be in knowing we were in a neighborhood we weren’t supposed to be in. … But we were determined to make sure that folks knew that your community that’s just on the other side of these train tracks exists and we have a legitimate fear that needs to be heard across Sacramento.”

5:50 p.m.: Jane Mantee, a local activist, urged the City Council to push for the police officers who shot and killed Clark to be fired.

“If it was your child, your friend your people, your kin that were shot like that in their granny’s back yard, the very least you’d want is the folks who did it to no longer have a badge or a gun to do it again,” said Mantee.

Clergy response: ‘Last night was the shame of the nation.’

5:45 p.m.: As public comments began at an emotional Sacramento City Council meeting, three local clergy members told councilors they were “severely failed” by police officers who arrested 84 people during a Stephon Clark protest Monday.

Speaking first, the Rev. Kevin Ross of Unity of Sacramento said “We were severely failed last night. … Last night was the shame of the nation.”

Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall described how officers forced protesters to move down 51st Street in East Sacramento, away from a Trader Joe’s on Folsom Boulevard. Rev. Pamela Anderson, a Sacramento minister, described being shoved by an officer with a bike. Once the protesters were isolated on a bridge over Highway 50, police arrested 78 people, including two journalists.

“I would like to know whose idea that kind of tactical strategy was,” Westfall said.

“It could have gone very bad very quickly,” Anderson said. “We are better than this.”

Police chief delays response to arrests

5:30 p.m. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he would wait “a couple weeks” before providing his analysis of a mass protest Monday night that resulted in the arrests of more than 80 people in East Sacramento.

Speaking at the beginning of an emotional City Council meeting, Hahn said “there is no doubt that this protest ended differently than the vast majority of protests that we have.” But he did not apologize or explain why his officers decided to arrest 84 people – including pastors and journalists.

“We will definitely be getting to the facts,” Hahn said.

He said the department would examine body camera footage from officers on the scene.

“I’d be happy to come back in a couple weeks and give an update on what the facts are,” he said.

“As you all know, we did have a few media folks arrested and that is definitely unusual for our city,” he added.

Protesters started chanting “No Justice! No peace!” two speakers later.

In a follow-up interview with The Sacramento Bee, Hahn said the department “had an incident commander in charge” overseeing the department’s response to the protest. Asked who it was, he responded, “That’s a good question.”

“I don’t know who was in charge at that moment,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

The chief said he “completely understands people’s concern of the way that went down (with 84 arrests); it’s not necessarily the norm for Sacramento.”

Police escalated their response to the protest after receiving reports of cars getting “keyed” in the Fab 40’s. Hahn said “there were some cars keyed, but I couldn’t tell you how many or where they were at.

Will arrests backfire on police?

5:14 p.m.: The venue had shifted to the Freeport police station but Tanya Faison, like many demonstrators, couldn’t shake the memories of Monday night’s march in East Sacramento, which ended with 84 arrests.

Faison, the founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, said the heavy police turnout was in direct correlation to the location, one of the most upscale sections of the city.

“”We’ve never had that type of police presence when we’ve protested, but we’ve never been in the Fabulous 40s, either,” Faison said. “I think it was in response to us being in a neighborhood that’s a really rich white neighborhood.”

She added that the fact that those arrested included clergy, media members and legal observers will lead to considerable problems for the department. “It’s going to come down pretty hard on the Police Department,” Faison said.

She pinned much of the blame on police Capt. Norm Leong, whom she said “gave the orders to Sac PD to act the way they did.”

Leong, reached by The Bee, said he is “part of the command staff that has been dealing with the protests over the past year” but hasn’t been acting alone.

‘Black lives must matter’

4:59 p.m.: Breanna Martin, one of the protesters at Freeport, said she won’t stop demonstrating until the two police officers who killed Clark are fired and prosecuted.

“We will occupy this space, we will be heard, because black lives must matter now,” she said.

Recalling her arrest

4:05 p.m.: The Rev. Pamela Anderson, of the Presbytery of Sacramento, arrived at the police station and recalled how she was among 84 people arrested last night at the end of the march through East Sacramento.

Anderson said she and other clergy were at the march “to create space” between protesters and riot police as the situation grew increasingly tense.

She said she was surprised when police started arresting her and others, and the scene was surreal.

“It was like something out of a movie — there was a helicopter overhead, our shadows were all over the ground.

“We were just trying to get everybody to remain calm.”

Starting in the lot

4 p.m.: The protest was initially confined to the parking lot of the station, although Black Lives Matter organizer Sonia Lewis said Monday that protesters planned to enter the building. A police spokesman said demonstrators would be allowed inside as long as they didn’t cause damage or endanger safety.

Protesters came prepared with food, drinks and a pop-up shelter on a drizzly afternoon. The pop-up was erected right in front of the building entrance, and placards protesting the Clark shooting were being held up by a couple dozen protesters.

As is customary, observers were on hand from the National Lawyers Guild. Guild observers were in attendance Monday night when 84 protesters were arrested at the conclusion of the lengthy march through the Fab 40s neighborhood in East Sacramento.

Protests anticipated at City Council meeting

5:15 p.m.

Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn, speaking at the meeting regarding Monday night’s arrests, said “I’m not gonna give a lot of specifics tonight because quite frankly I don’t have a lot of specifics,” eliciting boos from the crowd and prompting Steinberg to call for order again.

Hahn said that as the capital of California, Sacramento sees many protests, but this most recent one was atypical in its number of arrests and the arrest of media personnel.

“I’d be happy to come back in a couple weeks and give you the update of the facts that we’ve revealed, but I’d be a little remiss if I tried to guess at what the facts are now,” Hahn said.

Flojaune Cofer, speaking during public comment, said that she was struck by police with batons.

“They behaved in a way I could only describe as monstrous,” she said.

5 p.m. City Hall had prepared for potential protests with two metal detectors moved just inside the lobby doors, a step up from its usual one positioned at the chamber entryway.

Just before the meeting got underway, the chambers were about 80 percent full.

Calling for order at the beginning of the meeting, Steinberg said “The last thing I want to do tonight is ask someone to leave.”

After reciting the pledge of allegiance, some members of the audience shouted “justice for all.” Steinberg asked people to not shout out, assuring them that everyone would have a chance to be heard.

3:45 p.m. Sacramento Superior Court officials announced the Sacramento downtown courthouse and jail were scheduled to close at 4 p.m. ahead of anticipated protests.

The six-story downtown courthouse sits less than a half-block from Sacramento City Hall, the site of Tuesday’s City Council meeting and the scene of fiery protests in the days after Clark’s death in March.

The Sacramento County Main Jail was also a target for demonstrators who took to downtown Sacramento streets during days of protest last spring.

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Recap leading up to Tuesday

Protests were expected at Sacramento City Council’s scheduled meeting Tuesday following Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s decision to not press charges against the Sacramento police officers who killed Stephon Clark in March.

Arden Fair mall was shut down Sunday following Schubert’s Saturday announcement when a handful of protesters staged a sit-in.

Monday evening, protesters marched from Trader Joe’s in East Sacramento through the wealthy Fab 40s neighborhood, ending when police ordered marchers to disperse and arrested 84 people, including clergy and journalists.

In a statement following the arrests, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was “disappointed the protest ended the way it did,” and the following morning asked the Office of Public Safety Accountability to investigate the actions made by law enforcement.

Tuesday afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his investigation into the death of the unarmed 22-year-old black man in his grandparents’ Meadowview backyard also found no cause to charge the two involved officers.

China sets robust growth target to shore up cooling economy

China’s government announced a robust annual economic growth target and a 7.5 percent rise in military spending Tuesday at a legislative session overshadowed by a tariff war with Washington.

In a bid to defuse U.S. and European complaints the Chinese system is rigged against foreign companies, Premier Li Keqiang promised in a speech to the National People’s Congress they will be “treated as equals” with Chinese competitors.

Li, the country’s top economic official, set this year’s growth target at 6 to 6.5 percent, reflecting official determination to shore up a cooling, state-dominated economy and prevent politically dangerous job losses in the face of U.S. tariff hikes and weaker global demand. It is off slightly from last year’s 6.6 percent growth, a three-decade low, but would be among the world’s strongest if achieved.

The premier promised to “promote China-U.S. trade negotiations,” but gave no details of talks aimed at ending the fight with President Donald Trump over Beijing’s technology ambitions and complaints it steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

Li pledged higher spending on technology development the ruling Communist Party sees as a path to prosperity and global influence and more money for education, social programs and public works construction.

Li warned the second-largest economy faces a “graver and more complicated environment” and risks that “are greater in number and size.”

The two-week gathering of the congress’s 3,000-plus delegates in the cavernous Great Hall of the People is China’s highest-profile event of the year but does little lawmaking work. Instead, it serves as a platform to highlight plans for the year and set the tone for government work.

President Xi Jinping’s government is expected to use this year’s session to announce measures to support economic growth including tax cuts and more support for entrepreneurs who generate China’s new jobs and wealth.

Companies and investors are looking for details of how Beijing will carry out promises to curb the dominance of state industry.

Legislators also are due to endorse a law that aims to ease tensions with Washington and Europe by discouraging officials from pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.

A gathering of noncommunist groups held at the same time draws tech billionaires, movie stars and ethnic minorities to the Chinese capital.

Government spending plans reflect “emphatic pro-growth efforts” and a “commitment to offset external headwinds,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

Proposed tax cuts of up to 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) would put “significant spending power” in the hands of consumers and companies and help to buoy sagging demand for autos, household appliances and other goods, said Varathan.

The government wants to “ensure a soft landing,” said Varathan.

Li, the No. 2 leader in the ruling party behind Xi, said Beijing will spend more on technology development including artificial intelligence, electric cars, biotechnology and new materials.

China’s emergence as a competitor in smartphones, telecom equipment, solar power and other technologies has increased the range of products available to consumers and helped to drive down prices. But it rattles Washington and other governments that worry Chinese competition is a threat to their industries and employment.

Spending on the Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, will rise to 1.2 trillion yuan ($178 billion), according to a separate report issued by the finance ministry. China’s total military outlay, the second-largest behind the United States, is estimated by independent experts to exceed $220 billion a year when off-budget expenses are added in.

Li said the central government budget deficit would rise from 2.6 percent of total economic output to 2.8 percent, reflecting higher spending to stimulate the economy.

The tariff fight with Trump over Beijing’s technology ambitions has rattled Chinese consumers and investors who also worry about weakening real estate and auto sales. That is prompting some to put off spending, which could add to downward pressure on economic growth.

News reports say Washington and Beijing might be close to an agreement to end the battle. But the chief U.S. envoy, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said earlier the two sides still had much work to do.

No agreements have been announced on the core of the dispute: U.S. pressure on Beijing to roll back plans for state-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other technology.

Washington, Europe and other trading partners say those violate China’s market-opening obligations. Some American officials worry they might erode U.S. industrial leadership.

It was unclear whether Trump would be mollified by the technology measure, part of law on foreign investment that state media say the congress is due to endorse.

It would bar officials from using “administrative measures” to pressure companies to hand over technology. Foreign business groups welcomed the proposal but said they need to see details of how it will be enforced to know whether it will improve conditions.

Li tried to reassure investors by promising foreign companies will be “treated as equals” with Chinese enterprises in a “fair and impartial market environment.”

Foreign business groups and governments complain Beijing routinely violates its commitments under the World Trade Organization to ensure such equality, or “national treatment.” They say rules on investment, technology licensing and other facets of business discriminate against foreign companies or shield Chinese enterprises from competition.

Xi and other Chinese leaders have announced changes over the past year including tariff cuts on imported consumer goods and plans to allow full foreign ownership in auto manufacturing. But business groups say those have little impact on operating conditions for foreign companies in China.

Beijing faces a formal WTO challenge filed in July by the European Union against rules on technology licensing the 28-nation trade bloc said improperly hamper the ability of foreign companies to protect and profit from their technology.

Li promised “competitive neutrality,” or equal treatment of state-owned and private companies by Chinese regulators. But he gave no details of how far that might extend for foreign competitors.

“Enterprises under all forms of ownership will be treated on an equal footing,” the premier said.


AP writers Yanan Wang and Christopher Bodeen and researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

Death toll rises to 22 as tornadoes, severe storms hit South

An apparent tornado roared into southeast Alabama and killed at least 22 people and injured several others Sunday, part of a severe storm system that caused catastrophic damage and unleashed other tornadoes around the Southeast.

“We are at 22 right now. Unfortunately, I feel like that number may rise yet again,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said of the death toll.

Drones flying overheard equipped with heat-seeking devices had scanned the area for survivors but the dangerous conditions halted the search late Sunday, Jones said. An intense ground search would resume Monday morning.

Jones said the apparent twister traveled straight down a key local artery in Beauregard and that the path of damage and destruction appeared at least a half mile wide. He said single-family homes and mobile homes were destroyed, adding some homes were reduced to slabs. He had told reporters earlier that several people were taken to hospitals, some with “very serious injuries.”

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told The Associated Press that he had to call in help from the state, because there were more bodies than his four-person office can handle.

Dozens of emergency responders rushed to join search and rescue efforts in hard-hit Lee County after what forecasters said they think was a large tornado touched down Sunday afternoon, unleashed by a powerful storm system that also slashed its way across parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

Radar and video evidence showed what looked like a large tornado crossing the area near Beauregard shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, said meteorologist Meredith Wyatt with the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service.

“It appears it stayed on the ground for at least a mile and maybe longer,” Jones told the AP.

After nightfall Sunday, the rain had stopped and pieces of metal debris and tree branches littered roadways in Beauregard. Two sheriff’s vehicles blocked reporters and others from reaching the worst-hit area. Power appeared to be out in many places.

President Donald Trump tweeted late Sunday, “To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe. … To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”

Rita Smith, spokeswoman for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, said about 150 first responders had quickly jumped in to efforts to search the debris after the storm struck in Beauregard. At least one trained canine could be seen with search crews as numerous ambulances and emergency vehicles, lights flashing, converged on the area.

No deaths had been reported Sunday evening from storm-damaged Alabama counties outside Lee County, said Gregory Robinson, spokesman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. But he said crews were still surveying damage in several counties in the southwestern part of the state.

Numerous tornado warnings were posted across parts of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina on Sunday afternoon as the powerful storm system raced across the region. Weather officials said they confirmed other tornadoes around the region by radar alone and would send teams out early Monday to assess those and other storms.

In rural Talbotton, Georgia, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Atlanta, a handful of people were injured by either powerful straight-line winds or a tornado that destroyed several mobile homes and damaged other buildings, said Leigh Ann Erenheim, director of the Talbot County Emergency Management Agency.

Televised broadcast news footage showed smashed buildings with rooftops blown away, cars overturned and debris everywhere. Trees all around had been snapped bare of branches.

“The last check I had was between six and eight injuries,” Erenheim said in a phone interview. “From what I understand it was minor injuries, though one fellow did say his leg might be broken.”

She said searches of damaged homes and structures had turned up no serious injuries or deaths there.

Henry Wilson of the Peach County Emergency Management Agency near Macon in central Georgia said a barn had been destroyed and trees and power poles had been snapped, leaving many in the area without power.

Authorities in southwest Georgia are searching door-to-door in darkened neighborhoods after a possible tornado touched down in the rural city of Cairo, about 33 miles (53 kilometers) north of Tallahassee, Florida, on Sunday evening. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

Authorities said a tornado was confirmed by radar in the Florida Panhandle late Sunday afternoon. A portion of Interstate 10 on the Panhandle was blocked in one direction for a time in Walton County in the aftermath, said Don Harrigan, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tallahassee.

“There’s a squall line moving through the area,” Harrigan told AP. “And when you have a mature line of storms moving into an area where low level winds are very strong, you tend to have tornadoes developing. It’s a favorable environment for tornados.”

The threat of severe weather continued into the late-night hours. A tornado watch was in effect for much of eastern Georgia, including Athens, Augusta and Savannah. The tornado watch also covered a large area of South Carolina, including the cities of Charleston and Columbia.

Girl abused, sexually assaulted in motel room, sheriff says. Stepmom, boyfriend arrested

A Hanford couple was arrested Saturday after they allegedly abused and sexually assaulted the woman’s juvenile stepdaughter, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office says.

Laurie Lutz, 46, and boyfriend Gregory Cantu, 30, are accused of beating the girl with a belt causing several minor injuries, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Lutz later left the girl alone with Cantu and he allegedly sexually assaulted her, the sheriff’s office says.

Cantu is a registered sex offender on parole for a sex offense.

The girl was able to get away and authorities were contacted late Saturday morning.

According to the sheriff’s office, investigators learned that Lutz picked up the girl from family members under false pretenses and took her to the Stardust Motel on Lacey Boulevard near Highways 43 and 198 where the beating took place.

When Cantu was alone with the girl, he touched her inappropriately and kissed her against her will. He then threatened the girl and told her to not tell anyone, the sheriff’s office says.

The girl convinced Cantu to walk with her to a nearby store and managed to run away after she got out of the motel room and contact authorities.

Deputies tried to contact Cantu at the motel but he instead tried to flee out a back window. He was caught and taken into custody and booked into the Kings County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office, on charges of child endangerment, lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14 and victim intimidation.

Lutz was arrested and booked into the jail on a charge of child endangerment.