State College, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — A gunman opened fire at a hotel bar near Penn State's main campus, killing two men and wounding a woman, broke into a stranger's house and fatally shot the 83-year-old homeowner, and then killed himself, authorities said.
The initial shooting happened just after 10 p.m. Thursday at P.J. Harrigan's Bar & Grill in State College, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Penn State's campus.
State College Police Chief John Gardner said Friday afternoon they are still trying to determine why Jordan Witmer, 21, of Bellefonte, opened fire inside the bar, shooting two men he apparently didn't know, and Nicole Abrino, with whom he had an unspecified connection.
Dean Beachy, 62, of Millersburg, Ohio, died at the scene, and Beachy's 19-year-old son Steven Beachy died at a hospital Friday afternoon. Abrino was shot in the chest and remains at a Pittsburgh hospital. Gardner said he didn't know her condition.
Witmer then fled the bar, crashed his vehicle and broke into a home by shooting out a sliding glass door, Gardner said. Inside, he fatally shot homeowner George McCormick, 83, before turning the gun on himself. McCormick's distraught 80-year-old wife barricaded herself in a room and called 911.
There was no relationship between Witmer and McCormick, and officials believe he chose the home at random, Gardner said.
There was never any threat to Penn State or its students, he said.
They are still gathering information about the shooter, whom he described as being in the military.
Family members told WNEP-TV that Dean Beachy was an auctioneer and that he and his son were in State College for a horse auction.
Caracas, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — Even as Venezuelans fill the streets rallying behind opposition leader Juan Guaido and the list of foreign nations recognizing him as the country's rightful president grows, the top members of the all-important military are sending a different message: Forget about it.
In back-to-back proclamations Thursday, high-ranking generals standing in front of stern-faced troops pledged their unwavering support to embattled President Nicolas Maduro in an unsurprising display of loyalty.
Since taking the helm of Venezuela's government in 2013, Maduro — a protege of the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez but with no military experience himself — has cemented the support of the nation's troops by promoting loyalists, giving them control over key sectors of the economy and appointing them to ministerial positions.
All that means that the military's top brass remains beholden to Maduro and is likely too frightened of losing its standing or going to jail to betray him, according to experts on Venezuela's military. Rank-and-file troops struggling to put food on the table may not share their steadfast loyalty, but the odds of a significant faction defecting and recognizing Guaido are slim, several current and former military officers said.
"We have to wait and see what happens over the next 48 hours," said Jose Antonio Colina, a former army lieutenant. "If the middle- and low-ranking troops don't express their disagreement within the next two days, we can assume they're standing by their leadership."
The armed forces have traditionally served as an arbiter of political disputes, though according to the constitution backed by Chavez they are "not at the service of any person or political partisanship."
Exactly 61 years before Guaido pledged before swarms of supporters to serve as Venezuela's interim president, the military ousted dictator Marco Perez Jimenez, who fled on a plane to the Dominican Republic amid mounting unrest. Chavez as a young army commander staged a botched coup in 1992 and a decade later was briefly forced from power himself.
Guaido, a photogenic 35-year-old lawmaker who has re-invigorated the opposition, has argued that three public sectors are critical to establishing a new government: The people, the international community and the military.
On Friday, he asked supporters to share the text of an amnesty law that would pardon members of the military who cooperate in restoring the country's democracy with anyone they know in the armed forces. He also urged troops to let humanitarian aid that the U.S. has pledged to send and which he has approved in his self-designated role as interim president into the country.
"In the days ahead, you will face an important test," he said in a message directed toward the military.
But the military Guaido is asking for support from is far different than that of the past; Chavez and now Maduro have blurred once-clear lines of separation between troops, the government and the ruling political party. In that environment, it becomes highly unlikely that a fracture among the top leadership would occur, though there are signs of cracks amid rank-and-file troops.
In recent years, hundreds have fled abroad seeking better economic prospects, and dozens have been jailed on suspicion of plotting against the government. On Monday, a few dozen national guardsmen seized a stockpile of assault rifles in a pre-dawn uprising that was quickly quashed.
Perhaps curiously, the military has not activated the emergency protocol known as "Plan Zamora" that has been used during previous unrest and gives troops authority to repress and control mass demonstration. One former general who spoke on condition of anonymity said that might be acknowledgement that disillusioned underlings wouldn't follow those orders.
Rocio San Miguel, a Caracas-based military expert, noted that while there were clashes Wednesday between protesters and state security forces, the mass protest where tens of thousands gathered to watch Guaido speak took place without confrontation.
On Thursday, one 19-year-old member of the National Guard, still with braces on his teeth, said he wouldn't want to be in the position of having to beat protesters. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, he said he'd be outraged to apprehend "innocent people."
Another young comrade patrolling a busy road leading to the Supreme Court with the teen said he hadn't seen the video images of military leaders proclaiming their support to Maduro because he doesn't own a cellphone but that he follows orders as instructed.
Colina, the former army lieutenant, said even though many rank-and-file troops are going hungry like countless other Venezuelans, they don't have effective leadership to challenge superiors, meaning it's likely they'll opt for the status quo.
"It's not enough, unfortunately," he said. "They've stopped being the moral compass."
Several former military leaders who remain in close contact with active troops said that for Guaido to even have a chance of winning over support from sectors of the military, he'd have to continue to galvanize the public and prove to skeptical military officers with much to lose that his promise of granting amnesty to those who promote change is sincere.
"What's going on in Venezuela," San Miguel said, "hasn't finished yet."
Caracas, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — The Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself interim president vowed Friday he would remain on the streets until the South American country has a transitional government, while President Nicolas Maduro dug in and accused his opponents of orchestrating a coup.
In dueling press conferences, Juan Guaido urged his followers to stage another mass protest next week, while Maduro pushed his oft-repeated call for dialogue. Each man appeared ready to defend his claim to the presidency no matter the cost, with Guaido telling supporters that if he is arrested they should "stay the course" and peacefully protest.
But the standoff could set the scene for more violence and has plunged troubled Venezuela into a new chapter of political turmoil that rights groups say has already left more than two dozen dead as thousands take to the street demanding Maduro step down.
"They can cut a flower, but they will never keep spring from coming," Guaido told supporters Friday, alluding to a similar phrase from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Guaido's talk with reporters in a plaza in Caracas turned into a de facto rally as thousands gathered after hearing he would speak in public for the first time since taking a symbolic oath Wednesday proclaiming himself the nation's rightful leader.
The Trump administration announced it was recognizing the 35-year-old leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly quickly after his oath, leading Maduro to say that he was breaking all diplomatic ties with the United States.
Guaido's move, which was made after assurances of U.S. support, is the most direct challenge to Maduro's rule despite years of protests at home and international efforts to isolate the regime amid a growing humanitarian crisis fueled by falling oil prices and government mismanagement.
Maduro is accusing the opposition of working with the U.S. to overthrow him. Though over a dozen nations as well as the Inter-American Development Bank are recognizing Guaido as president, Maduro still has the support of the military and powerful, longtime allies like Russia and China and is vowing to defend his socialist rule.
"This is nothing more than a coup d'etat, ordered, promoted, financed and supported by the government of the United States," Maduro said Friday at the presidential palace before a room of journalists. "They intend to put a puppet government in Venezuela, destroy the state and take colonial control of the country."
But he added that he was still willing to talk with the opposition even if he "had to go naked."
Both sides attempted dialogue last year, but it fell apart as Maduro pushed forward with an early election that the country's most popular opposition leaders were barred from running in. Many in the international community condemned that vote and now consider the National Assembly, which Maduro has stripped of its power, the only legitimate institution.
On Friday, Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin America department, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that Moscow is ready to play mediator between Venezuela's government and the opposition. The U.N. Security Council is meeting Saturday on the crisis.
The standoff is taking place as international concern over repression by state security forces during the days of political upheaval mounts.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet's office said Friday it has credible reports that security forces or members of pro-government armed groups have shot at least 20 people during protests on Tuesday and Wednesday and is calling for an investigation. The total figure is likely higher: The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict says 21 people were killed by gunfire in protests and looting on Wednesday and Thursday, on top of five deaths authorities confirmed Tuesday.
The Penal Forum human rights group says that 369 people have been detained since Monday.
"The international community is watching more closely than ever before, so Venezuelan security forces - and those commanding them - should know they will be held to account for any abuses," Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter.
U.S. and Venezuelan diplomats are finding themselves caught in the crosshairs. On Wednesday, Maduro gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country — an order Washington said it would defy by keeping the embassy open, though it told non-essential staff to leave.
On Friday morning, a caravan of black SUVs escorted a contingent of U.S. embassy workers and their families to the Caracas airport. They were later seen checking into an American Airlines flight.
Maduro, meanwhile, has recalled all Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S. and ordered the nation's embassy and consulates there closed. Guaido, seeking to sidestep Maduro, has urged all American and Venezuelan staff to stay in their posts.
Amid the tension, the U.S. on Friday named Elliot Abrams, a hawkish former Republican official, to handle American policy toward Venezuela.
Standing before a podium with the Venezuelan coat of arms, Guaido said Friday that he would release the text of an amnesty law that would pardon members of the military who cooperate in restoring democracy and asked Venezuelans to share it with officers they know.
The military is the traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela and the armed forces' top brass has pledged its loyalty to Maduro, though security experts note that many within the lower ranks are disgruntled over low wages rendered practically worthless by hyperinflation.
Still, most consider it a long shot for Guaido to win the military's support.
"Stand on the side of the people," he urged the armed forces.
Maduro has not shown any hint he's ready to cede power. He called Guaido on Friday "an agent for the gringos in Venezuela," using a sometimes derogatory term for Americans. But he also said that he would be willing to talk with U.S. President Donald Trump and the opposition.
"I'm not anti-American," he said. "I'm anti-imperialist."
Maduro's administration looked to discredit Guaido on Friday by broadcasting security camera footage that Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said shows the young opposition leader entering a meeting with ruling socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello the night before declaring himself president.
Cabello has alleged that Guaido held a secret meeting with him Tuesday night and admitted to being under enormous pressure from the U.S. Guaido denied having met with Cabello.
The security footage shows a man looking down and dressed in a gray hoody, making it essentially impossible to identify him. In response, supporters on social media launched the hashtag "GuaidoChallenge," urging people to share photos of themselves disguised in hoodies.
Guaido, in his remarks earlier Friday, said he'd be willing to talk with any party willing to discuss restoring democracy, but short of that, he said there would be more protests.
"There will be people on the street," Guaido clamored, "until we get freedom."
Tijuana, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — Eusebio Gomez thought his arduous journey to the U.S. and monthslong wait in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, would end when he made it to American soil. But a shift in the Trump administration's immigration policy could mean more waiting.
The Mexican government said Friday that the United States plans to return 20 migrants per day at the San Ysidro border crossing as they await an answer to their asylum requests. The practice could be one of the more significant changes to the immigration system in years.
Gomez, who was one of 25 names called for processing Friday at San Ysidro, said he would feel far less safe waiting in Tijuana, with its sky-high homicide rate. The 18-year-old Honduran said he wanted to come to the U.S. to escape violence.
"It's not about the dollar, it's about safety," Gomez said.
"The Mexican government doesn't agree with this unilateral move," but will accept the migrants under certain conditions, said Roberto Velasco, spokesman for Mexico's Foreign Relations Department. He said the U.S. government wants to extend the practice, known as "remain in Mexico," to the rest of the border crossings.
Juan Portillo, 38, who arrived in Tijuana two months ago from Venezuela with his wife and 7-year-old daughter, said he was fleeing political oppression after protesting President Nicolas Maduro's government.
"We do not feel safe" in Tijuana, Portillo said, shortly before Mexican authorities whisked him, his family and seven others away in a van to be turned over to U.S. authorities.
Advocacy groups condemned the idea. The Southern Poverty Law Center warned it would create more chaos at the border. Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU's Border Rights Center, said in a statement that it endangers lives. A legal challenge is expected.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, both Democrats, released a statement warning that the changes would harm asylum seekers.
"Asylum seekers are easy prey for criminals and gangs in Mexico, but the Trump plan forces people to remain in harm's way, even if there is a significant possibility they will be persecuted or tortured in Mexico," they said in a statement.
Velasco said around midday Friday that the first 20 migrants would be returned at the San Ysidro crossing, across from Tijuana, "in the next few hours."
He said all are Central Americans and all apparently had temporary visas in Mexico. That suggests they may have been part of last year's migrant caravans, many of whom had such visas. U.S. officials have said Mexican asylum seekers and children traveling alone are exempt from the new policy.
Mexico will not accept migrants who have appealed a denial of asylum, unaccompanied children or people with health problems, Velasco said.
He did not say how or where Mexico would house the migrants, who might have to wait months or years for their asylum claims to be resolved.
Akbar Heybari of Iran, who has been paying for a Tijuana hotel with his wife and children, ages 15 and 12, said he would much prefer to stay with a niece who is studying medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
"It's good (in Tijuana), but we don't want to stay here more," said Heybari, a grape farmer who plans to seek asylum on grounds of government persecution for his political activities.
There are about 2,400 names on the asylum processing list at San Ysidro. U.S. officials have been calling up to 100 names a day.
U.S. authorities plan to bus asylum seekers back and forth to the border for court hearings in downtown San Diego, including an initial appearance within 45 days, according to a U.S. official familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was not yet publicly announced.
The Trump administration will make no arrangements for them to consult with attorneys, who may visit clients in Tijuana or speak with them by phone, the official said.
The U.S. has witnessed a surge in asylum claims, especially from Central American families. Due largely to a court-imposed 20-day limit on detaining children, families are typically released with a notice to appear in immigration court. With a backlog of more than 800,000 cases, it can take years to settle cases.
Sao Paulo, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — A dam that held back mining waste collapsed Friday in Brazil, inundating a nearby community in reddish-brown sludge, killing at least seven people and leaving scores of others missing.
Parts of the city of Brumadinho were evacuated, and firefighters rescued people by helicopter and ground vehicles. Local television channel TV Record showed a helicopter hovering inches off the ground as it pulled people covered in mud out of the waste.
Photos showed rooftops poking above an extensive field of the mud, which also cut off roads. The flow of waste reached the nearby community of Vila Ferteco and an administrative office for Brazilian mining company Vale SA, where employees were present.
"'I've never seen anything like it," Josiele Rosa Silva Tomas, president of Brumadinho resident's association, told The Associated Press by phone. "It was horrible ... the amount of mud that took over."
Silva Tomas said she was awaiting news of her cousin, and many people she knew were trying to get news of loved ones.
Seven bodies had been recovered by late Friday, according to a statement from the governor's office of Minas Gerais state.
Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said he did not know what caused the collapse. About 300 employees were working when it happened. About 100 had been accounted for, and rescue efforts were under way to determine what had happened to the others.
"The principal victims were our own workers," Schvartzman told a news conference Friday evening. He said a restaurant was buried by the mud at lunchtime.
Another dam administered by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton collapsed in 2015 in the city of Mariana in Minas Gerais state, resulting in 19 deaths and forcing hundreds from their homes.
Considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, it left 250,000 people without drinking water and killed thousands of fish. An estimated 60 million cubic meters of waste flooded rivers and eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Schvartsman said what happened Friday was "a human tragedy much larger than the tragedy of Mariana, but probably the environmental damage will be less."
There were no official reports of deaths, but the state fire department told The Associated Press that about 200 people were missing. The company said it did not have any further information.
President Jair Bolsonaro said he lamented the accident and sent three cabinet ministers to the area.
"We will take all the possible steps to minimize the suffering of families and victims," Bolsonaro said in a speech, which he posted on Twitter.
Bolsonaro, who assumed power Jan. 1, planned to tour the area aby helicopter on Saturday. The far-right leader campaigned on promises to jumpstart Brazil's economy, in part by deregulating mining and other industries.
Environmental groups and activists said the latest spill underscored a lack of regulation.
The latest spill "is a sad consequence of the lessons not learned by the Brazilian government and the mining companies responsible for the tragedy with Samarco dam, in Mariana, also controlled by Vale," Greenpeace said in a statement.
"History repeats itself," tweeted Marina Silva, a former environmental minister and three-time presidential candidate. "It's unacceptable that government and mining companies haven't learned anything."
The rivers of mining waste raised fears of widespread contamination.
According to Vale's website, the mine waste, often called tailings, is composed mostly of sand and is non-toxic. However, a UN report found that the waste from the 2015 disaster "contained high levels of toxic heavy metals."
Vale is Brazil's largest mining company. Two hours after the accident, its stock fell 10 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.