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NYT: Democrat Conor Lamb wins PA’s special election, beating Rick Saccone in a Trump stronghold

Update March 14, 2018 7:35 p.m EDT: Democrat Conor Lamb has won Pennsylvania’s special election in the 18th Congressional district, beating Republican Rick Saccone in a GOP stronghold by a thin margin of just over 600 votes, according to The New York Times, which called the election late Wednesday.

Republicans have not conceded the election and are likely to demand a recount, the Times reported.

Update March 14, 2018 2:32 p.m. EDT: Sources told WPXI’s Rick Earle that the Republican party has hired an independent firm to look for voting irregularities in Tuesday’s special election.

Although unofficial results for the race put Democratic candidate Conor Lamb just a few hundred votes ahead of his Republican rival for the 18th Congressional District seat, Rick Saccone, a recount of the vote is unlikely. If the race was one that was statewide, it would trigger an autmoatic recount, as less than .5 percent separates Lamb and Saccone’s tallies. The same rules don’t apply to congressional races.

 >> On Why there may not be a recount in the 18th Congressional District race

A recount can only happen if three or more voters from each precinct petition for a recount due to fraud or errors in the vote counting.

Update March 14, 2018 12:50 a.m. EDT: Democratic candidate Conor Lamb has declared victory over opponent Rick Saccone in the closely watched special election in Pennsylvania for the 18th Congressional District seat.

>> Visit for complete coverage of this developing story

Saccone has not conceded.

The Pennsylvania Secretary of State's election results website currently has Lamb with a 113,111-112,532 edge in votes. However, there are still an unclear number of absentee, provisional and military ballots to count.

>> Read more trending news 

ORIGINAL STORY: Polls have closed in the special election for the 18th Congressional District, a race that has drawn national attention and is seen by some as a referendum on President Donald Trump.

Political newcomer Conor Lamb showed strength in fundraising and the polls for Democrats, who are seeking to control a seat that has been primarily Republican for decades. 

The GOP pinned its hopes to Rick Saccone, a four-term state representative who has tied himself very closely to Trump throughout the campaign.

The seat opened in October when longtime representative Tim Murphy resigned amid a scandal.

The district, which stretches through parts of Greene, Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties, could change by May after the state Supreme Court threw out the electoral map in January, saying it was unconstitutional. 

The court issued a new map intended to take effect by the May primaries, although Republicans have challenged that map in court.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Stephen Hawking dead at 76: Celebrities, public figures, scientists pay tribute

Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist, professor, author and pop culture icon, died Wednesday at age 76.

>> MORE: Stephen Hawking dead at 76  |  Photos  |  Notable deaths 2018  |  Memorable quotes  |  MORE

Hawking, whose life was chronicled in the 2014 film "The Theory of Everything," had battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – aka ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease – for more than five decades.

Scientists, public figures and celebrities, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and pop singer Katy Perry, flocked to social media to pay tribute to Hawking. Here's what they had to say:

Jimmy Carter on North Korea: 'It's good we're going to be talking to them'

Former President Jimmy Carter said Sunday that “while I don’t agree with everything that President Trump has done, I think it’s good that he’s decided to go” meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“If we could avoid a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, that would be a wonderful achievement,” Carter, 93, told his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. “It’s good we’re going to be talking to them.”

>> Read more trending news 

Thursday’s announcement that Trump would accept Kim’s invitation to meet has been controversial in some quarters. It was especially timely where Carter was concerned.

“I had made arrangements last week with the White House to have some experts come down and give me an up-to-date briefing on what’s going on concerning North Korea,” he said. “They came down the day that Kim Jong Un invited Trump to come over. So we had a lot to talk about.”

>> On Jimmy Carter to start cutting back on teaching Sunday school

Carter, who recently announced that he would start cutting back on his Sunday school duties, broke some happy news to the class about his wife’s health. Rosalynn Carter, 90, had surgery three weeks ago at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to remove “troubling scar tissue” from a portion of her small intestine. 

>> On ‘I was deathly afraid.’ Jimmy Carter shares details of wife Rosalynn’s surgery

“She’s been very, very ill,” Carter said about his wife of 71 years, who normally attends Sunday school and the worship service at Maranatha, then stays afterwards to pose for photos with him and hundreds of visitors. Now, though, he said with a smile, “She’s doing fine. As a matter of fact, she just phoned me awhile ago to finally say she’s on her way home. She’ll be there when we get (back from church).”

>> On A 70th wedding anniversary interview with the Carters

Still, Carter suggested, the situation had been a wake-up call of sorts for the famously busy former first couple.

“We’ve said this before and nobody believed us,” Carter said to knowing chuckles from some in the packed church. “We’ll withdraw from some of the things we’ve been doing.”

Florida Senate to vote on school safety bill that excludes ban on assault rifles

The Florida Senate will vote on a school safety bill Monday.

Senators hammered out the legislation during a rare special session in Tallahassee over the weekend.

The push for school safety and gun control measures comes in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting, in which 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day

>> On Trump says arming teachers in schools 'up to states'

The Senate spent nearly eight hours Saturday debating dozens of amendments to the 100-page bill before finally approving the legislation for a final vote on Monday.

Democratic proposals to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines were rejected, as was a Democratic proposal to strip language from the bill that would create a program to arm teachers who have gone through law-enforcement training if school districts choose to take part in the so-called marshal plan.

>> On Police advocacy group says it opposes arming teachers

It was clear that senators were divided on the bill, and not just on party lines. While crafted by Republicans, some GOP senators still opposed it because they don't agree with raising the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 or requiring a waiting period to buy the weapons.

Democrats believe the legislation doesn't go far enough in some ways and goes too far in others. And while some oppose the bill, others believe it's at least a first step toward gun safety.

>> Company working on bulletproof doors in wake of school shootings

Democrats want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used in the Parkland attack. Many also oppose arming teachers. The bill also includes provisions to boost school security, establish new mental health programs in schools, and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

Jeff Xavier, a survivor of the Pulse attack, was hoping the legislation would include a ban on assault rifles.

>> Walmart raising age to buy guns to 21 after Florida high school shooting

“I think that, as Americans, we do have a right to arm ourselves, however, I do not believe that high-powered, high-velocity (guns) should be available to the general public,” said Xavier.

But much of the debate Saturday revolved around gun control and whether people should have a right to own an assault rifle.

"Every constitutional right that we hold dear has a limitation," said Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer. "These are just military-style killing machines and the right of self-defense and the ability to hunt will go on."

Republicans argued that banning such weapons would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

>> Florida school shooting: How difficult is it to purchase a gun in Florida?

"Our founding fathers weren't talking about hunting, and they weren't talking about protecting themselves from the thief down the street who might break in," said Republican Sen. David Simmons. Simmons said people need guns to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.

"Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons – took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody – and then on the night of June 30th, 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents," Simmons said. "You think it doesn't happen in a free society? It does."

>> Read more trending news 

The Legislature wraps up its annual session on Friday. Lawmakers are scrambling to take some kind of action before then. The full House has yet to take up its version of the bill.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been lobbying lawmakers to pass his plan to assign at least one law-enforcement officer for every 1,000 students at a school. Scott is opposed to arming teachers.

'SNL': Alec Baldwin as Trump compares White House to Waffle House at 2 a.m.

On "Saturday Night Live," the Alec Baldwin/President Donald Trump sketches keep on coming.

>> Read more trending news 

During the opener Saturday night, the show's writers did make an amusing – if not totally over-the-top – analogy between the White House and a Waffle House at 2 a.m.

Turning to the subject of his planned tariffs on aluminum and steel, Baldwin-as-Trump said: “Both sides hated it. I don’t care. I said I was going to run this country like a business. That business is a Waffle House at 2 a.m. Crazies everywhere, staff walking out in the middle of their shift, managers taking money out of the cash register to pay off the Russian mob.”

>> Watch the clip here

Trump to senators in gun reform meeting: 'You're afraid of the NRA'

7 a.m. EST Thursday: President Donald Trump commented on Wednesday’s meeting in an early morning tweet Thursday.

>> Jamie Dupree: Trump scrambles gun debate by backing Democratic proposals

“Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House,” he wrote. “Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”

>> See the tweet here

ORIGINAL STORY: During a Wednesday meeting with lawmakers about gun laws and gun reform, President Donald Trump joked with a pair of senators that they're "afraid of the NRA.” But he also showed interest in re-examining the gun laws and making changes.

Trump was speaking with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) about their gun control bill, which was first introduced in 2013. The bill is aimed at enforcing criminal background checks on gun sales, including private sales, PolitiFact reportedTrump said he didn’t know much about the the bill and speculated that it “didn’t have a lot of presidential backing.” He then asked if the Manchin-Toomey bill included a measure to raise the age limit for individuals hoping to purchase an assault weapon. When he learned that it did not, he joked to Toomey, “You’re afraid of the NRA.” Those remarks echoed his statements on Monday when he urged governors “not to be afraid of the NRA,” and said, "We have to fight them every once in a while," according to Reuters.

>> Walmart raising age to buy guns to 21 after Florida high school shooting

>> Marjory Stoneman Douglas students return to class after school shooting

Trump went on to say, "A lot of people are afraid of that issue — raising the age for [the AR-15] to 21.” Trump has said multiple times that he wants to raise the age requirement for purchasing assault weapons to 21. The NRA came out against raising the age requirement, and over the weekend, two top NRA officials met with the president to make their case, CNN reported.

>> Dick's Sporting Goods to stop selling assault-style rifles

Democrats are working to push through a number of bills, including the Fix NICS bill, which would encourage state and federal authorities to report criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to CNN. Some Democrats aren’t getting behind the bill, saying that it does not do enough; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the bill as too weak because it doesn’t include a universal background check. The Fix NICS bill has already passed the House. Some Republicans have come out against it, saying it’s unnecessary. When asked about the bill on Tuesday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said: “I don’t think we need more gun control laws; I think we need more idiot control.”

>> Read more trending news 

Trump showed some interest in the Fix NICS bill but was more interested in the topic of bump stocks. When Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) mentioned bump stocks, Trump said, “I’m going to write that out because we can do that with an executive order. I’m going to write the bump stock — essentially write it out. So you won’t have to worry about bump stock. Shortly that will be gone.” Bump stocks became a hot-button issue after the Las Vegas shooter used the devices.

>> Florida school shooting: 25 of 45 calls to Nikolas Cruz's house were about brother, report says

>> Parkland school shooting survivor asks tourists to boycott Florida until gun reform passes

Trump also raised a few eyebrows when he pushed back on the need for courts to get involved in gun confiscation, saying, “Take the guns first, go through due process second. … I like taking the guns early.”

>> Florida school shooting survivors return to campus, try to resume normalcy

>> FedEx responds to criticism of continued association with NRA

Trump expressed interest in a number of other bills, including one that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (R-Conn.) proposed. Their bill would ban assault weapons and was introduced after the Sandy Hook massacre. Trump told Feinstein multiple times that he will look at her bill.

Oprah says God would have to tell her to run for president

Oprah Winfrey previously made it clear that she has no plans to run for president of the United States in 2020, but she revealed to People magazine that there’s one thing that could make her change her mind: God.

Winfrey received calls to run for president from friends and fans alike after giving an inspiring speech at the Golden Globes in January, but she later denied that she was planning to run. However, instead of just ignoring the calls to run for president, she decided to turn to prayer.

>> Oprah on 2020 presidential run: 'That's not for me'

“I went into prayer,” she told People. “‘God, if you think I’m supposed to run, you gotta tell me, and it has to be so clear that not even I can miss it.’ And I haven’t gotten that.”

Winfrey was surprised to hear the response to her moving speech, telling the publication that she was happy with her speech, but she never expected the reaction that it got.

“When I walked off with Reese [Witherspoon], I thought, ‘I got that done,’” Winfrey said. “It wasn’t until I was back in the press room that they said, ‘Do you realize you’re trending?’”

Soon after the speech, people started contacting her, encouraging her to run, including close friends, such as best friend Gayle King, and billionaires offering to fund her campaign.

>> Read more trending news 

“I had people – wealthy, billionaires – calling me up and saying, ‘I can get you a billion dollars. I can run your campaign,’” she revealed. “That many people saying something made me think, ‘Am I at least supposed to look at the question?’”

Still, Winfrey had previously said the job doesn’t “interest” her and that she doesn’t think she has the “DNA” to be president, the Telegraph reported.

Florida high school shooting survivor says young activists will keep gun debate alive

David Hogg, a survivor of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, believes that youth will help him and other activists in the fight for stronger gun laws.

>> Click here to watch

“This will be a generation-long thing, and this is just getting started,” he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday while speaking on his age. Of the youth of the new group of activists, he said, “I really think that’s what’s going to sustain this process.”

Hogg had similar thoughts over the weekend while speaking about conspiracy theorists who made accusations that he and his fellow classmates were actors.

>> Parkland school shooting survivor asks tourists to boycott Florida until gun reform passes

“I’m so sorry to each and every one of you that is out there attacking us as witnesses and even some of the victims of this incident,” he said over the weekend during a segment on MSNBC’s “AM Joy.” “It’s truly saddening to see how many of you have lost faith in America, because we certainly haven’t. And we’re never going to. You might as well stop now, because we’re going to outlive you.”

“These people that have been attacking me on social media, they’ve been great advertisers,” he said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “Ever since they started attacking me, my Twitter followers are now a quarter of a million people. People have continued to cover us in the media. They’ve done a great job of that, and for that, I honestly thank them.”

>> Read more trending news 

Hogg is not the only one using his age as an advantage.

Fellow survivor and activist Delaney Tarr said that she and others her age “have nothing to lose” at a Tallahassee rally. She promised to come “after every single” lawmaker and demand that they “take action.”

Parkland school shooting survivor asks tourists to boycott Florida until gun reform passes

David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, is now calling for tourists to boycott Florida during spring break to raise awareness for gun control.

>> Florida school shooting survivor's mother says her family has received death threats

“Let’s make a deal DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed,” Hogg tweeted to more than 280,000 followers. “These politions [sic] won’t listen to us so maybe the’ll listen to the billion dollar tourism industry in FL.”

>> On Florida high school shooting survivor doesn’t think the NRA cares about its members

According to WTVJ, Hogg said in a video that tourists shouldn’t come to Florida for spring break or summer vacations, saying, “How can you expect people from across the nation and the world to come to South Florida if we can’t guarantee their safety because of the inaction of these politicians? I understand there will be economic ramifications from this, but that is only if these politicians refuse to take quick and swift action to resolve these gun issues.”

>> Florida school shooting survivors return to campus, try to resume normalcy

Tourists spend more than $100 billion each year while visiting Florida, according to Oxford Economics.

>> Read more trending news 

Hogg also suggested that tourists instead go to Puerto Rico, tweeting, “It’s a beautiful place with amazing people. They could really use the economic support that the government has failed to provide.”

>> See the tweet here

Hogg has been vocal since the Valentine’s Day shooting at his high school. He has criticized the actions of the NRA and spokeswoman Dana Loesch, claiming they “don’t serve [the members of the NRA],” and he had to prove he wasn’t a “crisis actor” after he and his family received death threats.

Olympian Gus Kenworthy criticizes Ivanka Trump during closing ceremony

U.S. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy had less-than-kind words for one of his fellow Americans at the closing ceremony for 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

>> PHOTOS: 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics - Closing Ceremony

“So proud of all these people!” he said after sharing a picture. “Everybody here has worked so hard to make it to the Olympics and have the opportunity to walk in the closing ceremony!”

>> See the tweet here

“Well… Everyone except Ivanka,” he continued, mentioning the first daughter. “Honestly, tf is she doing here??”

>> Read more trending news 

Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump's daughter, led the presidential delegation in the closing ceremonies. Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the beginning of the Olympics to lead the presidential delegation in the opening ceremonies. Pence made headlines when he sat down for the Korean delegation, which included athletes from both North and South Korea.

Many criticized Kenworthy’s shot.

Others made political jokes at Ivanka Trump’s expense.

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