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VP Mike Pence ready for secret meeting with North Korea, but North backs out

Vice President Mike Pence was ready for a secret meeting with North Korean officials at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, earlier this month, but the North backed out, according to news outlets.

>> Read more trending news 

Pence attended the Olympics Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 as part of a five-day trip to Asia and was seated near Kim Jong-un’s sister, but did not speak to her, creating a media sensation.

The North canceled the meeting just two hours before Pence was scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and another North Korean state official, Kim Yong Nam, on Feb. 10 after Pence announced new sanctions against the North Korean regime during his trip and rebuked it for its nuclear program, according to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on the secret meeting.

“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement, according to The Hill.

>> Related: NBC apologizes for comment about Japan, South Korea during Olympics opening ceremony

News of the secret meeting comes as relations between the communist north and democratic south seem to be thawing in recent weeks with the announcement last month from Kim Jong-un that he was sending a delegation to the Olympics. He sent his sister to lead the group.

“We regret [the North Koreans'] failure to seize this opportunity," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. "We will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death."

>> Related: Olympic gold medalist, skater Meagan Duhamel, uses platform to spotlight dog meat trade

Pence said he planned to use his trip to the Olympics to prevent North Korea from using the games as a ploy for favorable propaganda on the communist regime.

Gun shop owner raises age to buy a rifle to 21

The owner of a Bellevue, Washington, gun shop is dealing with backlash and praise from all sides on what he calls a common-sense solution following the fatal school shooting in Parkland, Florida. 

>> Read more trending news

Jason Cazes, owner of lowpriceguns.com, now won’t sell an AR-15 or any long gun to anyone under age 21 unless they have military training.

“I woke up and it hit me,” Cazes said. “This Florida thing happened and the guy was 19.”

Cazes says the call to ban AR-15s won’t work and infringes on his rights. But he says he now believes anyone under 21 without military training isn’t mature enough to own one. He thinks his solution could work with the heated nationwide gun control debate. Neither side appears willing to budge.

>> Related: Who are the top 10 recipients of NRA money?

“Why am I the guy to do it, to offer the solution?” Cazes said. “I've been in the business 15 years. I've been in both sides politically. I lived in Louisiana for 20 years.”

His decision has led to a social media firestorm. He’s been getting strong pushback, but also praise from both sides. And that's exactly what brought gun owner Greg Meserve to Cazes’ gun shop for the first time on Tuesday.

“I support anyone who starts getting attacked for making common sense issues the norm,” Meserve said.

If you're buying any type of gun anywhere in the country, you have to fill out a federal form. And then your background check goes through the FBI database.

>> Related: Dallas Mayor pro tem tells NRA it can hold annual convention someplace else

In Washington state, you only have to fill out the state form if you're buying a handgun.

You don't have to fill out that form or do a state background check if you're buying any type of long gun like a shotgun or AR-15. That's part of what Cazes wants to change.

Cazes says given the support he’s gotten from both sides, he wants to push the idea forward. On Tuesday, he was lined up for multiple national interviews. And a Tacoma gun shop owner reached out to help.

>> Related: Nikolas Cruz is a ‘broken child’ who’s sorry about Parkland shooting, attorneys say

“He said ‘I have three master’s degrees and one is in criminal justice and I'll help you write the bill,’” Cazes said. “I said 'Thanks. Let's get on it.'”

Cazes stresses the idea is a compromise.

“Even if it helps 5 percent less people going crazy from people who aren't mature enough to handle these sort of weapons, then that's worth it,” he said. “But on the other side, I want my right to own this (AR-15) as an adult. That is my choice of what I want to defend myself and my family with.”

Coyote hunter using caller mistaken for coyote, shot and killed

A hunter using a coyote caller was shot and killed by a neighbor who mistook him for a coyote Monday in Alexander County, officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

Deputies said the victim, Seth Marsh, was in a wooded area along Ed Burgess Road near Highway 16, just north of Taylorsville, when he was shot with an AR-15.

Officials said Marsh was using an electronic coyote caller and set up on the ground near a tree when a neighbor heard the caller and fired two rounds at what he believed was a coyote, striking Marsh twice in the chest.

 Related: Sheriff on little girl’s murder: ‘This case has weighed on us’

Authorities said the neighbor immediately ran over to help Marsh and called 911.

Marsh died a short time later at a hospital in Wilkes County.

Officials said Marsh was wearing camouflage when he was shot. Authorities said he was also wearing an orange hat, but a hooded sweatshirt was covering it. 

Investigators seized the neighbor's weapon and returned to the location of the shooting Tuesday to canvas the area with metal detectors.

Wildlife officers said the accidental shooting is a reminder about the importance of gun safety.

"Whenever you point a weapon and pull that trigger, know where that bullet is going before you aim and shoot," Sheriff Chris Bowman said. 

"We're looking at, 'Did the suspect identify the target, or did he just shoot at movement?'" Chad Starbuck, with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said.

Deputies said Marsh, a father of two young children, was a preacher at a church in the northern part of the county.

>> Related: FBI: Partygoer broke off 2,000-year-old statue’s thumb, took it home after selfie shot

"It's sad to say that he will not see his little boy play sports or get to see his daughter walk down the aisle one day," church member Coy Pearson said.

Deputies said they are hoping to wrap up the investigation by Wednesday and meet with the district attorney to determine if any charges are warranted in the case.

George, Amal Clooney donate $500,000 to Parkland shooting survivors, Oprah Winfrey matches amount

Nearly a week after the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, George and Amal Clooney have announced they will participate in The March For Our Lives on March 24 and have donated $500,000 to the group.

>> Read more trending news 

The celebrity couple made the announcement in a statement from George Clooney. People reported the donation was made in the name of the couple’s 8-month-old twins Ella and Alexander.

“Amal and I are so inspired by the courage and eloquence of these young men and women from Stoneman Douglas High School,” Clooney said in a statement. “Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country, and in the name of our children Ella and Alexander, we’re donating $500,000 to help pay for this groundbreaking event. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

Related: Gabrielle Union, Kim Kardashian, more celebs call for gun control after Florida school shooting

On Tuesday afternoon, Oprah Winfrey said she would match the Clooney’s donation.

“George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more,” Winfrey tweeted. “I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March For Our Lives.’ These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard.”

The March for Our Lives event was announced by Students David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky, Jacqueline Coren and Emma Gonzalez, five survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. On Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the school, killing 17 people.

Related: Florida school shooting timeline: Seven minutes, three floors and 17 dead

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The March For Our Lives march will be in Washington, D.C. According to the group’s website, “the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings.”

Hundreds of students walk out in mass protest, march to Parkland high school

Hundreds of Florida students at West Boca High School walked off campus Tuesday morning and thousands more at other high school campuses held rallies or remembrances in honor of the 17 students and teachers killed in a shooting rampage  at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week.

>> Read more trending news 

The West Boca High students walked off of campus and headed south to Parkland in a show of solidarity with Douglas High students who have called for stronger gun control measures in the wake of the massacre. 

West Boca High is about 10 miles north of Douglas High.

The students gathered at first in a school courtyard, where hundreds of students chanted “we want change, we want change.”

>> Related: Students to board buses for Tallahassee, where they’ll try to change gun laws 

Later, the students began streaming down the street toward Parkland, where Douglas High is located. Live footage from television news choppers showed dozens of students walking peacefully along major roads.

>> Related: Dallas Mayor pro tem tells NRA it can hold annual convention someplace else 

Kendrick Hong, a 14-year-old West Boca High freshman, said the school was having a moment of silence for Douglas, which was to last 17 minutes, but kids got frustrated and said, “let’s go!”

He said school security tried to stop them but it “just turned into a spontaneous demonstration.” 

“It’s just amazing that all of us just did it.” 

“I just didn’t feel anyone was doing anything about guns,” said Hong, who walked about 4 ½miles before getting a ride to Douglas. 

He said West Boca High Principal Craig Sommer is walking with the kids. 

Hong believes about 90 percent of the school took part in the walk. 

“We are supporting a cause. That’s what so amazing,” said freshman Joey Courtney, 14. 

>> Related: Who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas? 13 things to know about Parkland high school’s namesake

Courtney said teachers also marched with the students “because they don’t feel safe either because of the lack of gun laws.” 

No one should be afraid to go to school,” Hong said. 

Rebeca Rojas, 14, a freshman at West Boca, said, “We have a right to protest. President Trump needs to know that he needs to make a law so that someone can’t get guns so easily.”

>> Related: When is the Stoneman Douglas town hall meeting; what time, what channel? 

At the same time, students at Boca Raton High and Park Vista High west of Boynton Beach held rallies or rememberances on their school campuses.

The public manifestations came as students from Douglas High boarded a bus Tuesday afternoon for Tallahassee, where they planned to press for changes to Florida’s gun laws.

Tahirah Lamont Brown, FedEx’s first African-American woman pilot, reflects on making history

Tahirah Lamont Brown made history in 2002 as the first African American woman hired by FedEx to be a pilot. Brown works with the company as an Airbus captain and line check airman.

According to a Feb. 2 post on the FedEx blog, Brown first stepped into a cockpit in 1992.

>> Read more trending news 

“I still remember it vividly as it was exhilarating. I was 20 years old. My first flight was in a Cessna 172, a four-seat single-engine prop plane,” Brown said. “My instructor in college was with me, along with my supportive, yet reluctant father in the backseat. We took off out of Long Island and flew to Greenwich, Connecticut. I was on top of the world. I could not believe that my view was the sky.”

To make her dream a reality, she had to work two jobs to pay for college and for flight training. She even asked her family for money at one point, promising she would pay them back after.

Brown credits another history maker for helping her on her career path.

“I met Bill Norwood, the first black pilot at United Airlines, while in Tuskegee, Alabama, at Operation Skyhook and he introduced me to OBAP, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals,” Brown said. “That introduction provided me with the guidance I needed, and also helped me with scholarships for flight training.”

“I felt like the world had no limits,” Brown said. 

Read more about Brown’s experience at the FedEx Blog.

Trump sends memo to DOJ asking for bump stock ban after Parkland massacre 

In a newly-signed memorandum less than a week after a teenage gunman killed 17 people inside a Florida high school not too far from President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate, Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to propose regulations to ban “all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” like bump stocks.

>> Read more trending news 

>> Related: Second state bans bump stocks, the penalties could put owners away for life

“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized — Jeff — very soon,” he added, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump made the announcement Tuesday, saying that the memo is the result of a DOJ review of bump stock devices that began in December in the wake of the October massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. He added that the review evaluated whether bump stocks were, in fact, legal under current law.

But because this ban addresses the function of bump stocks — fully automatic fire — and not the devices themselves, it paves the way to ban additional devices, like trigger cranks, that achieve the same effect.

After October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas — the worst in modern American history — House Majority Leader Paul Ryan sided with the NRA in advocating for a regulatory change for the devices instead of a legislative one, despite bipartisan interests in banning bump stocks.

Last fall, the NRA released a statement in support of “additional regulations” on bump stocks, trigger cranks and “devices intended to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles.”

That left the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to regulate bump stocks.

Several states also stepped up to ban bump stocks and or devices like bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic fully automatic fire.

Atlanta airport offers nonstop flights to Kingdom of Wakanda

“Black Panther” fans rejoice: The world’s busiest airport is officially offering nonstop flights to the fictional Kingdom of Wakanda. Sort of.

>> Read more trending news 

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport shared a photo of a terminal showing a 7:30 p.m. departure time to the hidden city on Twitter Monday, following a holiday weekend that brought in $235 million for the film.

The person behind the airport’s Twitter account had answers to all the essential questions.

According to the state Department of Economic Development, 3,100 people working in Georgia’s booming film industry were employed during the shoot, which started in August 2016 and wrapped up in November 2017.

“We’re incredibly proud that Atlanta has such an important role in the film industry,” Reese McCranie, Hartsfield-Jackson’s director of policy and communications, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McCranie said the airport’s social media team, which he oversees, came up with the idea during a Monday meeting.

Related: ‘Black Panther’ enjoys record weekend at box office

Since its posting, the playful image shared on the airport’s official Instagram and Twitter accounts has reached hundreds of thousands of people.

“We love keeping our customers engaged,” McCraine said. “And it’s important for us to be part of the cultural conversation.”

Unfortunately, the current flight departing from Gate T3 isn’t headed to the Kingdom of Wakanda. But, McCraine said, “we are certainly looking to explore direct service connection. In the meantime, we hope everyone gets to enjoy the movie.”

As for Wakanda, the beauty and wonder of the fictional country was inspired by Africa itself. Before shooting the film, director Ryan Coogler explored the mountainscape of the tiny nation of Lesotho.

Related: 5 things to know about ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler

According to The Washington Post, Wakanda is actually farther north, along the shores of Lake Victoria. “The country is rendered as a Pan-African pastiche; viewers of Black Panther can point to Ghanaian fabrics and Zulu headdresses, Ethiopian tribal body markings and a prominent Bantu tongue,” the Post reported.

The fictional country was also inspired by several African landmarks, including South Africa’s Three Rondavels (or Three Sisters) and the canyon Orbi Gorge.

JROTC cadet who died saving fellow students posthumously admitted to West Point

A 15-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman who, dressed in his JROTC uniform, died while holding a door open so his fellow classmates could escape a gunman with an assault rifle, has been posthumously admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

One of Peter Wang’s life goals was to attend West Point. Though that dream died on Feb. 14 with Wang and 16 of his classmates and teachers, officials at West Point offered him admission to the prestigious program on Tuesday, the day of his funeral. 

Officials took to West Point’s Facebook page to honor Wang, who they said lost his life in service to others.

“The U.S. Military Academy honors Peter Wang with an honorary admission for his bravery and selflessness,” the post read. “One of West Point's priorities is to develop leaders of character who are committed to the values of duty, honor, and country. Peter Wang's actions on February 14th are an example of those very principles and for this reason, the academy honors his dream of being a West Point cadet with a 2025 letter of acceptance.”

“It was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man,” an official statement from West Point’s public affairs office stated. “West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidates whose actions exemplified the tenets of duty, honor and country.”

The statement also offered the officials’ deepest condolences to Wang’s family and the Stoneman Douglas community. 

Wang has also been awarded the JROTC Medal of Heroism, along with two of his fellow slain freshmen. The Miami Herald reported that Wang would be buried with the medal pinned to his chest.

“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told the Herald. “The JROTC heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”

Maddox told the newspaper that Alaina Petty’s family received her medal Monday at the 14-year-old’s funeral, held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Coral Springs. The family of Martin Duque, also 14, will be presented with his metal at his funeral on Saturday. 

Like Wang, Petty and Duque were members of Stoneman Douglas’s JROTC program.

JROTC.com indicates that the Medal of Heroism is a “U.S. military decoration given by the Department of the Army to a JROTC cadet who performs a heroic act.

“The achievement must be an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” the website states. “The performance must have involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”  

Maddox told the Herald that additional cadets at Stoneman Douglas may receive awards for courageous actions they took the day of the massacre. For example, junior Colton Haab and other cadets, upon hearing gunshots, ushered several dozen students into the JROTC room.

The cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of their terrified classmates to shield them from bullets.

“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”

“However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families,” Maddox told the Herald. 

Wang became one of the heroes in the shooting after witnesses reported that he held open doors for several other students to flee the gunfire coming from the AR-15 in the hands of accused gunman Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, 19, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was expelled last year, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

Wang’s friends and supporters established a White House petition seeking full military honors for his burial. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 66,000 people had signed the petition.

A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House. 

Sheriff on little girl’s murder: ‘This case has weighed on us’

North Carolina authorities announced Tuesday that the adoptive parents of a missing 13-year-old girl are now facing murder charges in connection with her disappearance and death.

>> Read more trending news 

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said Casey and Sandy Parsons, the adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, will be charged with murder in the girl’s death, nearly five years after the girl was reported missing and some seven years after she disappeared.

A Rowan County grand jury indicted Casey and Sandy on charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, felony concealment of death, and felony obstruction of justice, Auten said.

February 17 would have been Erica's 20th birthday.

>> Related: Special Section: Erica Parsons Case

Erica's case has haunted the community since 2013, and Auten expressed pride when announcing authorities had gotten the break they had been waiting for that allowed murder charges to be brought forth.

"This case has weighed on us pretty heavy," the sheriff said during a news conference. "We just did not want to leave a little girl out there. We wanted to bring her home."

>> Related: Timeline: Erica Parsons case

Erica's adopted brother reported her missing in July 2013, but investigators discovered the Rowan County girl had not been seen since 2011.

Her remains were eventually discovered in September 2016 in rural Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and the horrific details of her autopsy were released last month.

>> Related: Officials: Woman started massive blaze after losing home in divorce 

Casey and Sandy Parsons are both in federal prison, sentenced in 2015 for accepting Erica's federal benefits after she disappeared. Neither had been charged with her death until Tuesday.

The pair will be brought back to Rowan County sometime in the coming weeks to answer for the state charges.

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