As death count rises in 2 US shootings, a familiar aftermath

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Anguished families planned funerals in two U.S. cities, politicians pointed fingers and a nation numbed by gun violence wondered what might come next Monday as the death toll from two weekend mass shootings rose to 31.

The attacks 1,300 miles apart — at a packed shopping center in El Paso, Texas , and a popular nightlife stretch in Dayton, Ohio — also injured dozens more. They became the newest entries on an ever-growing list of mass shooting sites and spurred discussion on where to lay the blame. President Donald Trump cited mental illness and video games but steered away from talk of curbing gun sales.

For all the back-to-back horror of innocent people slain amid everyday life, decades of an unmistakably American problem of gun violence ensured it wasn't entirely shocking. Even as the familiar post-shooting rituals played out in both cities, others clung to life in hospitals, with two new fatalities recorded among those injured at the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso.

As in a litany of other shooting sites before, the public juggled stories of the goodness seen in lives cut short with inklings of the demented motives of the shooters, and on-scene heroics with troubling ideologies that may have sparked the bloodshed.

Equally familiar, Washington reacted along party lines, with Trump's vague suggestion of openness to new gun laws met with skepticism by an opposition that has heard similar talk before.

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S&P 500 plunges in worst loss of year as trade war escalates

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks plunged to their worst loss of the year Monday and investors around the world scrambled to sell on worries about how much President Donald Trump's worsening trade war will damage the global economy.

China let its currency, the yuan, drop to its lowest level against the dollar in more than a decade, a move that Trump railed against as "currency manipulation." It also halted purchases of U.S. farm products. The moves follow Trump's tweets from last week that threatened tariffs on about $300 billion of Chinese goods, which would extend tariffs across almost all Chinese imports.

The escalating dispute between the world's largest economies is rattling investors unnerved about a global economy that was already slowing and falling U.S. corporate profits.

The S&P 500 dropped 87.31 points, or 3%, to 2,844.74 for its worst loss since December, when the market was wrapped in the throes of recession fears. It was down as much as 3.7% in the afternoon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 767.27, or 2.9%, to 25,717.74, and the Nasdaq composite fell 278.03, or 3.5%, to 7,726.04.

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Trump vows urgent action after shootings, offers few details

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking out against weekend mass shootings that rocked a nation, President Donald Trump on Monday called for bipartisan solutions to the bloodshed but offered few details and faced pointed questions from Democrats about whether he had the moral authority to rally a nation against the spasm of violence and racism.

Trump, back at the White House after remaining largely out of view for two days at his New Jersey golf club, declared the shootings in Texas and Ohio barbaric crimes "against all humanity" and called for unity to respond to an epidemic of gun violence. He blamed mental illness and video games but made no mention of more limits on the firearms that can be sold.

Trump said he wanted legislation providing "strong background checks" for gun users, though he has reneged on previous promises along that line after mass attacks. He seemed to abandon his latest idea of linking gun control legislation to immigration policy just a few hours after proposing it.

"We vow to act with urgent resolve," Trump said as the death toll from the shootings in El Paso and Dayton reached 31 late Monday. His scripted remarks included a solitary denunciation of white supremacy , which he has been reluctant to criticize, and he made no mention of the anti-immigration rhetoric found in an online screed posted just before the El Paso attack that mirrored his own incendiary language. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested.

Trump weighed trips to the affected communities — the Federal Aviation Administration advised pilots of a presidential visit Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton — though some local lawmakers signaled opposition to his presence.

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After shootings, Congress again weighs gun violence response

WASHINGTON (AP) — Newtown. Charleston. Orlando. Parkland.

And now after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Congress again is confronted with the question of what, if anything, lawmakers should do to combat the scourge of gun violence afflicting the country.

While both parties are calling for action, the retreat to familiar political corners was swift. Democrats demanded quick approval of gun-control legislation — some of it already passed by the House — while Republicans looked elsewhere for answers, focusing on mental health and violent video games.

With Congress away from Washington for a five-week recess, and the parties intractably divided, the odds appear stacked in favor of gridlock. But Democrats and some Republicans said this time can and should be different.

"While no law will end mass shootings entirely, it's time for Congress to act to help keep our communities safer," said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., as he vowed to again push bipartisan legislation to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales.

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AP Explains: What is the online forum 8chan?

NEW YORK (AP) — An anonymous online forum called 8chan has drawn attention in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio because violent U.S. extremists have used it to share tips and encourage one another. The site suffered sporadic outages Monday after its cybersecurity provider cut off support for what it called a "cesspool of hate."

WHAT IS 8CHAN?

The online message board dates back to 2013. Under the banner of free speech, it allows users to post graphic and extremist content and doesn't censor posts.

The site has been linked to violent extremists. Police are investigating commentary posted on 8chan believed to have been written by the suspect in a shooting Saturday that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas.

If there is a connection, it would be the third known instance of a shooter posting to the site before going on a rampage. In March, the gunman in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques posted a rambling manifesto to the site, as did another who injured several people and killed one at a California synagogue in April.

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GateHouse, Gannett to merge for $1.4B, build newspaper giant

NEW YORK (AP) — Two of the largest U.S. newspaper companies have agreed to combine for roughly $1.4 billion, creating a new industry giant that hopes to manage the crisis of print's decline through sheer size.

GateHouse Media, a fast-growing chain backed by an investment firm, is buying USA Today owner Gannett, promising to speed up a digital transformation as readers shift online. The companies say they are committed to "journalistic excellence" — while also cutting $300 million in costs every year.

The resulting company would be the largest U.S. newspaper company by far, with a print circulation of 8.7 million, 7 million more than the new No. 2, McClatchy, according to media expert Ken Doctor.

Local papers, faced with the complex and expensive process of building digital businesses to replace declines in print ads and circulation, have been consolidating madly in recent years. Although papers with national readerships like The New York Times and The Washington Post have had success adding digital subscribers, local papers with local readerships find it much more difficult. Hundreds of such papers have closed, and newsrooms have slashed jobs.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina, the U.S. has lost almost 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. Newsroom employment fell by a quarter from 2008 to 2018, according to Pew Research, and layoffs have continued this year.

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Lashing back, China lets yuan drop, halts US farm purchases

WASHINGTON (AP) — China decided Monday to meet President Donald Trump's latest tariff threat with defiance, letting its currency drop to an 11-year low and halting purchases of U.S. farm products.

The moves, which came four days after Trump threatened more taxes on Chinese imports, knocked stock markets worldwide into a tailspin. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 850 points by mid-afternoon.

Earlier, stocks tumbled from Shanghai to London on fears the escalation in U.S.-China trade tension will drag down a global economy that is already weakening.

Raising worries that China will wield its currency as a weapon in a trade war, Beijing let the Chinese yuan weaken to the politically sensitive level of seven to the U.S. dollar for the first time since February 2008.

Also Monday, China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese companies have stopped buying U.S. farm products — a direct shot at Trump supporters in rural America.

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Family, friends pay final respects to RFK's granddaughter

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) — Dozens of members of the extended Kennedy clan as well as friends from college filled a Cape Cod church on Monday to pay their final respects to Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old granddaughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy Jr., former Congressman Joe Kennedy Jr., and current U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III served as pallbearers during the funeral Mass held at Our Lady of Victory Church in the Barnstable village of Centerville, not far from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.

Her grandmother, 91-year-old Ethel Kennedy, was also at the funeral.

A private burial was scheduled to follow the Mass.

Hill, who was scheduled to start her senior year at Boston College this fall, was found unresponsive at a home in the compound on Thursday by first responders who were dispatched for reports of an overdose.

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Puerto Ricans await court decision on potential new governor

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's Supreme Court on Monday agreed to rule on a lawsuit that the island's Senate filed in a bid to oust a veteran politician recently sworn in as the island's governor.

The court gave all parties until Tuesday at noon to file all necessary paperwork, noting that no extensions will be awarded.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction ordering Pedro Pierluisi to cease his functions immediately and also asks that the court declare unconstitutional a 2005 law that says a secretary of state does not have to be approved by both the House and Senate if he or she has to step in as governor.

"I want to put an end to this, but I want to do it correctly," Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said during a special session in which he stated he would let the court decide the outcome, adding that Pierluisi only had five of 15 votes needed from the Senate for his earlier nomination as secretary of state.

It is unclear how quickly the Supreme Court might rule or whether it would hold a hearing or simply issue a written opinion. The announcement comes as Puerto Ricans who successfully ousted the previous governor from office following nearly two weeks of protests await yet another twist in what is a deepening constitutional crisis.

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The 'bizarre trip' that was almost Woodstock 50

NEW YORK (AP) — Shortly after Woodstock organizers announced the shambolic 50th anniversary concerts were off after months of setbacks and holdups, Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang summed up the drama in six words: "It's been a really bizarre trip."

Over the last six months, Lang, 74, moved like a cat using all nine lives to make Woodstock 50 work. The first plan, to have an all-star concert with the likes of Jay-Z, Dead & Company, the Killers and more in Watkins Glen, New York, some 115 miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the original 1969 concert — was scuttled after the venue backed out. Then the plan was to have it in Vernon, New York, but organizers couldn't get a permit. Lang finally found a location that would work — all the way in Maryland — but artists started to pull out of the festival and he decided to scrap the event and the anniversary concerts altogether.

"What can I say?" Lang said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "It's not been surprising that we weren't able to pull this off."

If Lang could go back and do things differently, he says, he would have tried to get permits earlier. And he would have worked with a different financial partner.

On April 29, Dentsu Aegis Network's Amplifi Live announced it took back about $18 million — the remains of the $49 million it had put in — from the anniversary event, set to take place Aug. 16-18. In its statement, the company also prematurely said that Woodstock 50 had been canceled, and some media outlets reported it as fact. (Lang sued, and a judge ruled Dentsu couldn't singlehandedly call off the show).