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  • WSB and Cox Media Group’s Washington Correspondent, Jamie Dupree has been recognized for his outstanding achievement with the “Excellence in Innovation” award at the 2019 Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.The Regional Murrow Awards are the embodiment of the values, principles and standards set forth by Edward R. Murrow, a journalism pioneer who set the standards for the highest quality of broadcast journalism. Of the awards given to journalists, the Murrow Awards are among the most respected journalism awards in the world.
  • Georgia's official state vegetable is officially in season, beloved Vidalia onions can now be found in grocery stores around the world. Grown only from Georgia soil, the Vidalia onion is available for a limited time. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black says, 'The sweetest onions on earth are certainly living up to their reputation this year.” He says, “We are proud to offer our sweet Vidalia onions to all those who have been patiently awaiting their arrival.
  • Voting mostly along party lines, the Florida Senate passed a school safety bill Tuesday that would allow teachers to carry guns on campus if local school boards approve, the Sun-Sentinel reported. >> Read more trending news  The vote comes 14 months after after last year’s Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland that killed 17 people, including 14 students. The 53-page bill, which passed by a 22-17 margin, now goes to the Florida House of Representatives, the newspaper reported. It passed with a clause that included an expansion of the “Guardian” program created in 2018, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The program allows teachers to carry guns after completing psychological screening and at least 144 hours training from a sheriff’s office, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The bill includes other items aimed at beefing up school safety, including more reporting of school safety incidents, a standardized risk assessment process for dangerous students and brand-new guidelines on school-based mental health, the newspaper reported. Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who served on the post-Parkland commission that reviewed the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, gave an emotional speech opposing the bill, although she said she was conflicted by the proposal, the Times reported. “Outside of this role (on the commission) I’m a mom who recently began dropping off my own kids off at school. I always figured I’d tear up because of how sweet and cute they are,” Book said on the Senate floor. “I never imagined tears streaming down my face because I’m afraid of what might happen to them. “I must, at the urging of my community, vote no today, but it’s an exceedingly, exceedingly painful vote.” Lawmakers in favor of the bill said an armed teacher might have been the difference in stopping a shooter and preventing an incident like the one that occurred in Parkland, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “I must err on the side of saving a kid,” said. Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.
  • An arrest has been made in the shooting of a University of Georgia lacrosse player and the armed robbery of another student, Athens-Clarke County police said Tuesday.  The wounded student, identified by his metro Atlanta high school as Tate Prezzano, 22, was taken to a hospital with serious injuries Monday morning after he was shot multiple times at an off-campus bus stop, authorities said. Prezzano, who also played lacrosse at Cambridge High School in Milton, is a junior communications major at UGA.  Police plan to ID the shooting suspect during a news conference Tuesday morning. WATCH A LIVE STREAM OF THE NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW:
  • It was the kind of question no one could imagine. “So if in this case, and this is an if, you were picked for the jury and you did find the defendant — me — guilty of … starving a child, my own child, and burning her body, would you be able to consider life with parole as an option or would death be the necessary action taken? ” Tiffany Moss asked. The 35-year-old Gwinnett County woman posed it last week to a Transportation Security Administration officer who’s a potential juror for her death-penalty trial. Because Moss is acting as her own attorney, she found herself asking the unthinkable. Taken aback, and clearly uncomfortable, the TSA officer — Juror No. 52 — said death would be his “first priority.” Jury selection, which consumed all of last week, will wrap up soon in this extremely rare instance in which a capital defendant is going it alone. Despite the recommendations of almost everyone, Moss has refused to be represented by two experienced state capital defenders who were assigned her case. (Instead, they have been appointed “standby counsel” and sit behind Moss in the courtroom gallery ready to help if she asks for it.) Atlanta attorney Ken Driggs, who has represented capital defendants at trial and on appeal, spent time in court last week to see how Moss was doing. He left unimpressed. Because Moss is not raising any objections, he said, she cannot appeal possible errors during her trial if she’s convicted and sentenced to death. “When you represent yourself you can’t complain about your mistakes,” Driggs said. “You are stuck with the consequences of your mistakes or lack of knowledge.” So far, more than 70 prospective jurors have been questioned about their thoughts on capital punishment and the criminal justice system to see whether they can be qualified as fair and impartial. The jurors are also asked what they think about Moss’s decision to exercise her constitutional right to represent herself. “I guess I feel that it’s kind of shocking,” Juror No. 56 said, looking over to Moss sitting alone by herself at the defense table. “It might not be the most logical decision,” said Juror No. 17, a Gwinnett librarian. “I would just say I hope she’s been given some guidance,” said Juror No. 41, a retired elementary school teacher. “That does bother me a little (but) you said it was her choice. You have to respect that.” Others said they just wanted to know why Moss had made such a decision. (They were never told why, although Moss has said she’s putting her faith in God’s hands.) Most jurors said they would not hold Moss’s self-representation against her or the state. Juror No. 63, a school support technician, was an exception. “I think I would have a little bias,” she said, referring to Moss. During jury selection, Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson has read the sobering indictment to panels of prospective jurors. This includes the murder-by-starvation allegation, various child cruelty charges and her alleged attempt to conceal the crime. Then, one juror at a time sits alone in the jury box, first to answer questions posed by the judge. District Attorney Danny Porter or assistant DA Lisa Jones are next. When it’s Moss’s turn, she most often smiles and tells Hutchinson, “No questions, your honor.” On very few occasions, however, she poses the question about the starvation and burning of her stepchild. When she does speak, Moss is polite and pleasant, sometimes bubbling up with nervous laughter. Some jurors return her smile, while others cast a curious glace at the woman they’d just been told is accused of starving and burning her stepchild. According to law enforcement, 10-year-old Emani Moss weighed just 32 pounds when her charred body was found in the fall of 2013. On two occasions, Moss won challenges to keep potential jurors in the final selection pool. This occurred after prosecutors sought to disqualify them because they said they would be reluctant to vote for a death sentence. One of them, Juror No. 30, a veterinary nurse, told Porter she had signed petitions opposing capital punishment. “I’m personally not a fan of it,” she said. But when Porter asked her if she could consider all three sentencing options — life in prison with the possibility of parole, life without parole or the death penalty — the juror said, “I would like to think I could.” As Porter continued to question her, the woman admitted to having bad experiences with law enforcement. One was being handcuffed by police as a teenager after squirting water from a car into the face of a taxi driver. Another included a friend she believed was wrongly convicted of a sexual assault. After probing that, Porter finally asked Juror No. 30 if, given her views and life experiences, she could truly vote for the death penalty. “I’ve been against it for so long,” the woman said, equivocating. Porter later moved to have Juror No. 30 disqualified. But Moss reminded Hutchinson the woman had said she could consider all three sentencing options, including death. Hutchinson granted Moss a small victory and kept the woman in the jury pool. At the same time, Moss has stumbled a number of times. On one occasion, she failed to try and disqualify a juror who’d said she could not vote to sentence a person convicted of killing a child to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Anther occasion involved Juror No. 138, who said she’d once supported capital punishment but now opposed it. Experienced defense lawyers would have questioned such a juror to try and get her to admit that, in especially egregious cases, she could still vote for death. Such a concession could make her a qualified juror and one favored by the defense. When Hutchinson asked Moss if she had any questions for this juror, Moss appeared to sense this possibility. She called for her standby lawyers, Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert, and they spoke to her at length at the defense table. As they gave instructions, Moss repeatedly nodded her head in agreement. After Gardner and Gilbert returned to their seats, Hutchinson asked Moss if she had anything to say. “No questions, your honor,” Moss said with a smile.
  • Almost half of all U.S. employers offer some type of health or wellness program, according to a report in the American Journal of Health Promotion. It was the first survey done on the matter in more than a decade. Most on the job health programs focus on physical activity, nutrition and stress management.
  • Pushing my deadline back for this Gridlock Guy column was a good idea this week. Procrastination allowed me to attend Buckhead Church’s Good Friday service before sitting down to write. The story of Easter really put me on a thought train about our vehicular travails. So even if you don’t track with Judeo-Christian traditions, there is a theme that is both very powerful and disarming from Holy Week that could ease the painful Atlanta commute. Sacrifice. Selflessness. » RELATED: Atlanta among America’s best places to celebrate Easter 2019 Even if you only believe that the crucifixion-resurrection story is just a fairytale, it is about as lopsided and unjust as they come. Jesus, the blameless and deified Messianic rabbi, got sentenced to death for blasphemy. He predicted and preached that his death was the solvency to save all of humankind from the damnation of their sins. A perfect man willingly died because all other humans are imperfect. This isn’t exactly fair for Him. In the lead up to the terrifying and stultifying events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, Jesus of Nazareth selflessly took his time investing in a group of mentees. The Apostles had no idea of the gravity of the yoke they chose to wear. They learned it after the great sacrifice and miracle of Easter. The lesson pushed them into lives of self-sacrifice and eventually on to grizzly deaths for their cause. Yes, this is a heavy consequence, especially when weighed against Atlanta rush hours. By the time of the Last Supper, the last night Jesus was alive, his followers knew he was special. Yet He got down on His hands and knees and then washed their nasty feet. He deserved exactly the opposite treatment, but acquiesced to prove a greater point about sacrifice. » RELATED: 12 hopping ways to celebrate Easter in metro Atlanta Now, imagine being hell bent on an arrival time. You are leading the meeting. You are driving the carpool. You are coaching the soccer game. Your goals are certainly more important than the person you are cutting off or not letting in in front of you. In fact, if that (insert mean moniker here) had any idea how important you were, they wouldn’t drive like such a (insert mean moniker here). The above example may be an exaggeration, but many of us drive in selfish, complacent bubbles. I, for one, find myself drunk with selfishness and apathy behind the wheel when I’m trying to, say, get to my Captain Herb Ballroom in Chamblee in time for my 2:30 p.m. traffic shift. All of these unsavory characteristics cause bad traffic and ill will. Our commutes are hard enough, even when traffic is just sluggish and we are having a great day. But when the clouds of angst, selfishness, apathy, and complacence gather, we end up driving in a metaphorically stormy commute. We know that driving and thunderstorms do not mix. The examples of Messianic sacrifice and bullish self-centeredness may seem extreme, but they illustrate and juxtapose major underlying solutions and problems to our crazy traffic system. An array of secular and spiritual motorists should agree: a little bit of “You first, then me” can go a long way. And that compromise and sacrifice can make going a long way take less time. And even if selflessness saves you zero time, the spread of goodwill can make all parties happier.  » RELATED: Adult things to do on Easter in Atlanta Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • At least one University of Georgia student has been taken to a local hospital after a shooting and armed robbery near the campus, authorities said. WATCH ATHENS-CLARKE POLICE ADDRESS MEDIA BELOW: Athens-Clarke County police officers were sent to the 2100 block of South Milledge Avenue on a shooting call just after 7:15 a.m. Monday, according to agency spokesman Geoffrey Gilland. While officers were en route, the police department received a second call about an armed robbery near the same location.   When police arrived, they found a 22-year-old man who had been shot. He was given first aid and taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries, Gilland said.

News

  • A California girl managed to avoid a man following her in a car as she walked through a Vacaville neighborhood by hiding behind a parked truck. >> Read more trending news  Home surveillance video captured the incident, which happened earlier this month, and shows the girl being followed by a dark colored Pontiac driven by an adult man. The girl is clearly trying to avoid the man as he repeatedly turns around and tries to approach her. Vacaville police Capt. Matt Lydon said when the girl first noticed she was being followed, she walked to a different neighborhood and the driver followed.  Trending: Children find their lost puppy hanging from noose in woods behind home “As she walked into the adjacent neighborhood, she saw the Pontiac again,” Lydon said, according to KRON-TV. “She hid behind a parked truck on the street as the male went up and down the street a couple of times attempting to get her attention and attempting to have a conversation with her.” The video shows the girl hide behind the truck as the car repeatedly drives by, backs up and stops as the driver tries to engage in a conversation with her. >> Trending: Opossum found living in 7-year-old’s bedroom for 3 days before parents find it  When the car appears to drive off, the girl takes off running. Police are hoping someone may be able to help identify the driver and the car.
  • Nine explosions hit multiple churches, hotels and other locations in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 300 people and injuring hundreds more, according to The Associated Press and other media outlets. >> Read more trending news  The victims included at least four Americans, State Department officials said Monday. Here are the latest updates:  Update 11:30 p.m. EDT April 23: Police said the death toll in the Easter attacks has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58. The prime minister warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large. Update 1 p.m. EDT April 23: Sunday’s bombings claimed the lives of 45 children, officials with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund said Tuesday in a statement. “Many children have lost one or both parents, and countless children have witnessed shocking and senseless violence,” UNICEF officials said. More than 320 people were killed and 500 injured in the bombings. Update 7:11 a.m. EDT April 23: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the Guardian and the Washington Post are reporting. The group, which has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility. Update 5:55 a.m. EDT April 23: Sri Lankan officials said the death toll from Sunday’s bombings has risen to 321, the Guardian and the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The news came as Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attacks were “carried out in retaliation” for the deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand last month, according to The Associated Press. So far, at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, authorities said. Meanwhile, the country observed a day of mourning, including a three-minute moment of silence Tuesday morning. Mass burials also were held in Negombo, the Guardian reported. Officials have declared a state of emergency in Sri Lanka, giving military officials “enhanced war-time powers,” the AP reported. Authorities also are facing criticism amid reports that a top police official sent a letter April 11 to four security agencies warning that terror group National Towheed Jamaar was planning suicide bombings at churches, the AP reported. Update 9:45 p.m. EDT April 22: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, issued a statement in response to the bombings.  “Today as a nation we mourn the senseless loss of innocent lives this past Easter Sunday. I would like to thank the military and police forces, the medical personnel and all those who have worked bravely and tirelessly without concern for their own safety, to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. It is imperative  that we remain unified as Sri Lankans in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.” A three-minute moment of silence for the victims of the explosions will be held at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to BBC reporter Azzam Ameen. Update 8 p.m. EDT April 22: The two Australians who officials said had been killed in the explosions have been identified by a family member. Sudesh Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corp. his wife, Manik Suriaaratchi, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexendria were killed in an attack in Negombo, which is north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Kolonne said he was outside when the explosion happened. “I heard a huge noise and I jumped into the church and I saw that my wife and my daughter were on the floor,” he said. “I just saw my daughter on the floor and I tried to lift her up, (but) she was already dead. And (then) exactly the same… next my wife is there.” Kolonne said he and his family moved from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2014 when his wife started a consultancy business.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.” Update 4:50 p.m. EDT April 22: A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed to The AP that the agency is providing assistance with the investigation into the bombings. She would not provide specifics. Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 22: In an email to parents, officials at Sidwell Friends, a private school in the Washington-area, confirmed one of their students was killed in Sunday’s bombings, The Washington Post reported. School officials identified the student as Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth-grade boy who had been on leave in Sri Lanka for the last year, according to the Post. “Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year,” school officials said in the letter. “We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the Middle School.” State Department officials said earlier Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s attacks. Officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had also been killed in the bombings. Update 3 p.m. EDT April 22: Officials with the U.S. State Department confirmed Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka. The department said that in addition to those killed, several others were seriously injured. Officials gave no details about the identities of the victims, citing privacy concerns. Earlier Monday, officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had been killed in the bombings. Pearson CEO John Fallon said Dieter Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel in Sri Lanka for a business trip. Update 2:10 p.m. EDT April 22: President Donald Trump said he spoke Monday to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after a series of bomb attacks in the country. In a tweet, Trump said he told Wickremesinghe “the United States stands by him and his country in the fight against terrorism.” “(I) also expressed condolences on behalf of myself and the People of the United States,” Trump wrote. Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed the government would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Update 1:50 p.m. EDT April 22: Sri Lankan President Maithrpala Sirisena declared April 23 a national day of mourning in a statement obtained Monday by The Associated Press. In the statement, Sirisena said he planned to meet with foreign diplomats to seek international assistance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Monday that the U.S. would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Officials said nearly 40 foreign tourists from 11 countries were killed in Sunday’s attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.  Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday mourned the victims of Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka and promised the government would provide “all possible assistance” to Americans and Sri Lankans alike. Related: Sri Lanka attacks: Who are the National Thowheed Jamath? “We urge that any evil-doers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that,” he Pompeo said. “We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankas who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please.” Pompeo confirmed that Americans were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, though he didn’t specify the number of American victims. “It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists,” he said. Related: Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings Update 9:50 am. EDT April 22: A Denver man has been identified as one of the nearly 300 people killed Sunday in bombings in Sri Lanka, his employer confirmed Monday. Dieter Kowalski worked as senior leader of the operation technical services team for Pearson, an education management company. Though the company is based in England, Kowalski worked in Pearson’s Denver office, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.  “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a statement shared with company employees and posted Monday on LinkedIn. “They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace.” Fallon said Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel Sunday for a business trip. Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 22: Three children of Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller clothing, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. The 46-year-old Danish billionaire, who is also the largest shareholder in ASOS, and his family were on vacation in Sri Lanka, the AP reported. Authorities said 39 foreigners were among the 290 people killed in Sunday’s attacks.  Meanwhile, a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the churches that was bombed Sunday, exploded Monday as police tried to defuse three bombs inside, according to the AP. At least 87 bomb detonators have been found in Colombo, officials said. Police have detained at least 24 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings. Update 5:15 a.m. EDT April 22:  Government officials said the National Thowheed, a Sri Lankan militant group, was responsible for Sunday’s deadly attacks, the Guardian is reporting. However, a government spokesman said an “international network” helped the attackers. Seven suicide bombers caused six of the nine explosions Sunday, a forensic analyst told The Associated Press. Authorities also said a second Chinese citizen and two Australian citizens were among those killed in Sunday’s attacks. So far, the dead include citizens of the United States, India, Britain, China, Australia, Japan and Portugal, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka military official said crews defused a homemade pipe bomb discovered late Sunday on a road to the airport outside Colombo, the AP reported. Update 12:10 a.m. EDT April 22: The death toll in the bombings has increased to 290 and more than 500 people have been wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. Among those killed are five Indians, who were identified in tweets from India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, The AP reported. China and Portugal also said they lost citizens, and the U.S. said “several” Americans were also killed in the bombings. The AP reported Sri Lankan officials said they would examine reports that intelligence failed to heed or detect warnings of a possible suicide attack.  “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said in a tweet, according to The AP. “Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”  Update 9:50 p.m. EDT April 21: Japan has confirmed at least one citizen death and four injuries from the bombings. The country has issued a safety warning to Japanese people in the country, telling them to avoid mosques, churches and public places like clubs, malls and government offices, The AP reported. Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka and sent his condolences to victims of the explosions. He also said Japan was committed to “combating terrorism.” Update 5:40 p.m. EDT April 21: The Associated Press reported that, according to internet censorship monitoring group NetBlocks, social media has been blocked across the country after the attacks. Most services, including YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have been temporarily blacked out to curb false information spread, according to Sri Lankan officials. According to NetBlocks, such blackouts are usually ineffective. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Sri Lanka shuts down social media in wake of Easter attacks “We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to The AP. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.” Update 3:28 p.m. EDT April 21: Police have 13 suspects in custody, impounded a vehicle they believed was used by suspects and located a safe house used by the attackers.  Related: Photos: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. Update 9:28 a.m. EDT April 21: Police have so far arrested three people in connection to the blasts, The Guardian reported. A motive for the bombings is still unclear, investigators said.  Update 8:46 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 207 people were killed and 450 hurt in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Officials said eight blasts targeted three churches, three hotels, a guesthouse and an area near a Dematagoda overpass, the AP reported. Authorities reportedly have arrested seven people in connection with the incidents. Update 8:07 a.m. EDT April 21: Sri Lankan officials say at least 190 people, including at least 27 foreigners and two police officers, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the eight explosions, which rocked at least three churches and three hotels, as well as a guesthouse, officials said. Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 21: President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to the Sri Lankan people Sunday morning. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted. “We stand ready to help!” Update 7:19 a.m. EDT April 21: Hours after explosions at Sri Lankan churches and hotels left dozens dead and hundreds more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his annual Easter message at the Vatican. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Pope denounces attacks during Easter blessing “I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community (of Sri Lanka), wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican News. He later added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.” Every year after leading Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report:  Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Britney Spears appeared on Instagram on Tuesday evening to tell her fans that “all is well.” >> Read more trending news In the very brief Instagram video, Spears checked in, saying she “just needed time to deal,” but promised that she would be back very soon. “I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago... I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you” Earlier this month, Spears checked herself into a mental health facility as her father, Jamie Spears, continues to have health issues, according to TMZ. The celebrity news site reported that, according to unnamed sources, the singer has been distressed over her father’s illness, which the site claims is not getting better. In January, Spears announced that she was putting her planned Las Vegas residency — and the rest of her career — on hold for the sake of her father. The 37-year-old Spears has sons aged 13 and 12. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Children as old as 12, and even 13, may find themselves back in car booster seats under new legislation signed into law by Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee. >> Read more trending news  The new law updates children’s car seat regulations, requiring all children under 4 feet, 9 inches tall to ride in car booster seats.  According to House Bill 1012, children are required to sit in booster seats in vehicles “until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly, typically when the child is between the ages of eight and twelve years of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or must be properly secured with the motor vehicle's safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around the child's body.” The new law also requires all children under 13 to ride in the back seat and requires children under 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats. “Children aged 2 to 4 can be forward-facing in a car seat until they reach the specifications for a booster seat,” according to the new law. >> Trending: Opossum found living in 7-year-old’s bedroom for 3 days before parents find it  People in violation of the law can be ticketed.
  • An Ohio 9-year-old boy performing in drag at a Lancaster bar prompted an Ohio lawmaker to introduce a bill to expand the definition of child endangerment. State Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, introduced House Bill 180 to prohibit a performance in a bar where a child simulates sexual activity. The business could lose its liquor license and the parent could face misdemeanor criminal charges, if the bill becomes law. >> Read more trending news “Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again,” Schaffer said. “We can do better to protect innocent children and we must do better.” Related: Video of the boy’s performance Jacob Measley has been performing as Miss Mae Hem for several months, according to The (Toledo) Blade. His performance includes cartwheels, high kicks, splits and dancing in costume. He got interested in drag queens while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality TV show, with his mom, Jerri Measley, The Blade reported. She could not be reached for comment on this story. Video of a Dec. 1, 2018 performance at JD Hendersons bar in Lancaster led to complaints and an investigation by Lancaster police and state agencies, said Lancaster Mayor David Scheffler. No law violations were found, he said. After the investigations ended, a “social media outbreak” occurred when a website purporting to be the city of Lancaster made it sound like it was an ongoing issue, Scheffler said. “It was all dead, gone, over. Investigation found no violations. Then someone anonymously on this site posted inaccurate information.” The posting led to threats of violence and demands to close the bar from people across the country, the mayor said. “It got really nasty.”
  • A Georgia woman has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing her husband and four children, and stabbing a fifth child, who survived, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office said. >> Read more trending news Isabel Martinez, 35, entered guilty pleas to five counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children Tuesday. Martinez's defense attorney, Don Geary, said she pleaded guilty, but mentally ill. Martinez called 911 on July 6, 2017. When paramedics arrived at her Loganville home, they found Martinez with her wrists slashed. Martinez’s husband, Martin Romero, 33, was found stabbed to death, along with 10-year-old Isabela Martinez, 2-year-old Axel Romero, 7-year-old Dacota Romero and 4-year-old Dillan Martin-Romero. Diana Romero, then age 9, was found with stab wounds, but survived. Diana Romero told a DFCS worker that Martinez began stabbing the children first; when Martin Romero tried to stop her, Martinez stabbed him, according to a DFCS report. Martinez was not crying or screaming as she killed her family members, and told Diana Romero that she was “going to the sky to see Jesus,” Diana Romero told a DFCS worker. Martinez confessed to the killings in the following hours and was arrested, according to the DA’s office. Later, she claimed a “family friend” committed the stabbings in her Loganville home, but she did not give police the name of that alleged friend.  The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office declined to seek the death penalty in this case in part due to Martinez’s “apparent mental issues,” District Attorney Danny Porter said in 2018. Family and neighbors said Martinez was depressed in the weeks before she killed her family. Her father had died and Martinez was unable to attend the funeral in Mexico. She worried that he would go to hell because he practiced witchcraft, her brother-in-law, Orlando Romero, told the AJC. She told a Department of Family and Child services worker after her arrest that she felt a “devil-like spirit” was trying to take her children when they were playing in the ocean near Savannah shortly before the killings.  Martinez was sentenced to five life sentences with the possibility of parole plus 21 years after entering her plea Tuesday, according to the DA’s office.