10 things you need to know today: February 26, 2018
Students return to Parkland, Florida, school for first time since shooting, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics close, and more
Students return to Florida school for first time since shooting
Thousands of students, parents, and teachers returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Sunday for the first time since the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people. The school opened for an orientation session in preparation for the planned reopening of the school on Wednesday. Grief counselors were on hand to meet students. People added more flowers and stuffed animals to the area around 17 memorial crosses outside the school. The school is not expected to resume a full schedule until March 5. School district administrators are reworking class schedules to make up for the loss of the three-story building where the shooting occurred, because it will be closed. The district has proposed demolishing it.
2018 Winter Olympics close in South Korea
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics wrapped up on Sunday with a high-energy closing ceremony that concluded with a 15-minute electronic dance music party. Athletes streamed out of the stands, many dancing. U.S. skiing star Lindsey Vonn, who won bronze in her final Olympics, led a conga line. Jessie Diggins, who won the first-ever gold medal for the U.S. in cross-country skiing, carried the U.S. flag as athletes from 92 nations said their farewells in the ceremony, closing Winter Games that received high marks for the host nation and even included suggestions of a thaw in South Korea's relations with neighboring North Korea after months of rising tensions. Athletes from the two nations marched together in the closing ceremony.
Congress resumes work under pressure to address gun control
Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Monday after a week-long recess under intensifying pressure to enact gun-control legislation in response to the shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Politicians in both parties have recognized that Congress will need to address demands from students and others for measures to make schools safer, including tougher gun laws, but so far there has been no consensus on what to do. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sunday he planned to renew a push with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks for commercial gun sales, but he said he was "skeptical" about proposals to raise the minimum age for buying civilian versions of military-style rifles like the AR-15.
White House says talks must lead to curbing North Korea nuclear program
The White House said Sunday that any talks with North Korea would have to lead to the end of Pyongyang's controversial nuclear weapons program. The statement came a day after South Korea announced that members of North Korea's delegation to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang had said their government was open to a meeting with U.S. officials. North Korean officials said improvements in the relations between the two Koreas should be mirrored by improved relations with the U.S. North Korea used the Olympics for a charm offensive even as the Trump administration unveiled a new package of sanctions against the North.
California Democrats decline to endorse Feinstein
The California Democratic Party declined to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the state's senior senator, at an annual party convention split between progressives and moderates. Delegates preferred Feinstein's progressive rival, state Senate leader Kevin de León, by a vote of 54 percent to 37 percent, with neither getting the 60 percent required to win an endorsement. Still, de León claimed that the centrist Feinstein's snubbing amounted to a win for his struggling campaign, calling it "an astounding rejection of politics as usual." Feinstein told delegates Democrats can have more impact "if we have unified support."
Florida Republicans call for sheriff's suspension after school shooting
Florida Republican state lawmakers on Sunday called for the suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel as his department faced intensifying criticism over its handling of the Parkland school shooting, and of warnings that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, might be dangerous. The politicians accused Israel of "incompetence and neglect of duty," saying he "failed to maintain a culture of alertness and thoroughness" among his deputies in the months before the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel, a Democrat last re-elected in 2016, has said he will not resign, telling CNN he has "given amazing leadership to this agency."
Supreme Court will hear case likely to hit unions, Democrats
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday in Janus v. AFSCME, a case challenging the fees non-union public sector workers pay to unions to bargain on their behalf. If the five conservative justices side with the plaintiff, Illinois public employee Mark Janus, as expected, the projected loss in union funds and membership would significantly harm both the unions and the Democratic politicians they mostly support, according to political science research. A recent paper by Columbia's Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and two colleagues found that the Democratic share of the presidential vote dropped an average of 3.5 percentage points in states that enacted so-called right-to-work laws. Janus is being financed by a handful of well-coordinated conservative groups.
Explosion kills four in Leicester
An explosion and fire killed at least four people in the English city of Leicester, about 110 miles north of London, on Sunday night. Four other people were hospitalized, one in serious condition. The blast destroyed a building with a small shop on the street level and a two-story apartment above, on a crowded road leading to the city's center. Authorities said there was no immediate evidence to suspect terrorism. "We believe there may be people who have not yet been accounted for and rescue efforts continue in order to locate any further casualties," police said.
Syria attacks continue despite U.N. ceasefire resolution
Syrian government forces launched new airstrikes and ground attacks in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta east of the capital city of Damascus on Sunday, defying a United Nations resolution demanding a cease-fire across the war-torn country. At least 22 people were killed in the new attacks, and more than 500 have been killed since the offensive began a week ago. There also were reports of a suspected chlorine gas attack blamed for the death of a child. The continuing violence came after days of negotiating resulted in a Security Council resolution that passed Saturday with the approval of Syria's ally, Russia, and the U.S., which backs moderate rebels. "Actually there is no cease-fire at all," said anti-government activist Firas Abdullah.
Weinstein Co. to file for bankruptcy
The Weinstein Company announced Sunday that it would have to file for bankruptcy protection after a $500 million deal to sell the company to an investment group fell through. The board of the once-powerful film studio reportedly cut off negotiations when the investor group declined to offer to put up enough interim financing to keep the struggling company afloat. The Weinstein Company was already struggling due to mismanagement and a lack of entertainment hits when sexual assault and harassment allegations against co-founder Harvey Weinstein thrust it into turmoil. The board said bankruptcy was "an extremely unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors, and any victims," but the "only viable option to maximize the company's remaining value."