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National

    A U.S. judge in San Francisco will scrutinize the Trump administration's policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico during a court hearing Friday to help him decide whether to block the practice. Civil rights groups have asked Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco to put the asylum policy on hold while their lawsuit moves forward. Seeborg was not expected to rule immediately. The policy began in January at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, marking an unprecedented change to the U.S. asylum system . Families seeking asylum are typically released in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court. The administration later expanded the policy to the Calexico port of entry, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) east of the San Ysidro crossing. The lawsuit on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Central America and legal advocacy groups says the administration is violating U.S. law by failing to adequately evaluate the dangers that migrants face in Mexico. It also accuses Homeland Security and immigration officials of depriving migrants of their right to apply for asylum by making it difficult or impossible to do so. 'Instead of being able to focus on preparing their cases, asylum seekers forced to return to Mexico will have to focus on trying to survive,' according to the lawsuit filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. The Trump administration hopes that making asylum seekers wait in Mexico will discourage weak claims and help reduce an immigration court backlog of more than 800,000 cases. The Justice Department said in court documents that the policy 'responds to a crisis of aliens, many of whom may have unmeritorious asylum claims, overwhelming the executive's immigration-detention capacity, being released into the U.S. to live for many years without establishing an entitlement to relief, and often never appearing for immigration proceedings.' Border Patrol arrests, the most widely used gauge of illegal crossings, have risen sharply over the last year but are relatively low in historical terms after hitting a 46-year low in 2017. A federal law allows the Homeland Security secretary to return immigrants to Mexico at her discretion, Justice Department officials said in a court filing this month urging Seeborg not to block the policy. The civil rights groups said that law does not apply to asylum seekers who cross the border illegally or arrive at an entry port without proper documents. The policy followed months of delicate talks between the U.S. and Mexico. Mexicans and children traveling alone are exempt from it.
  • The Iditarod musher who was hours ahead in the Alaska wilderness race when his dogs refused to keep running dismissed critics who say he ran them too hard and chalked it up to a bad memory that spooked them. The team stopped last week after Frenchman Nicolas Petit yelled at a dog that was bullying another, but they 'did not slow down like a tired team would,' he said. It came a year after they got lost in a blizzard near the same spot along the Bering Sea coast — close to the finish line of the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that takes global competitors across mountain ranges and wind-swept ice. 'I wouldn't say it's a curse for me, I just had a bad time last year and lingering effects of the bad time this year,' Petit said. It was pure coincidence that it happened at the same point in the race, he said. 'They remember that we didn't have a fun run,' going through the snow the wrong way, Petit said Wednesday, sprawling out on a friend's sofa in Anchorage. Dogs from his team piled on top of him and licked his face. Also nosing their way in for attention were Joey, who was the bully on the trail, and Danny, the younger male dog who was bullied. When Petit withdrew from the race this year, he said it was a 'head thing' for the dogs. Then the blowback began — in press releases, on blogs and on social media. The most vocal critic of the race, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said it wasn't the dogs that needed their heads examined, it was anyone who supports 'the merciless race.' Others speculated that Petit overexerted the dogs, they were mistreated or were mentally unfit to run. Petit denies it all. 'This isn't any type of a reason to get rid of what I consider my children — the dogs I raised,' Petit said. 'No, I won't get rid of them. They are the most important thing in my life.' He also said he's 'stopping plenty' along the grueling route, preferring to rest outside checkpoints and along the trail when possible, where he says it's quieter and the dogs get more sleep. Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985, said the sport requires a fine balance between being competitive and keeping the dogs happy — something she said Petit excels at. 'People have this idea that you can force these dogs' to the finish line, Riddles said last week. 'It's not like that at all.' In 2018, Petit rested his dogs at a cabin between checkpoints before the disastrous run in the blizzard. He planned to stay at the cabin again this year but leave it with a well-rested team. Video shows an energetic and eager dog team entering and leaving the first checkpoint. Within a mile of the cabin, the dog dustup happened. Joey, a 2-year-old and the only non-neutered male on the team, was behind Danny, a 16-month-old pup. Every time Danny slowed down, Joey would pick on him. Finally, Petit yelled, 'Joey, that's enough!' 'I raise my voice a little bit and they are all like, 'Oh, boy, that's not normal,'' Petit said. 'I try to be as calming and collected with my dogs as possible all the time, so they heard an upset daddy.' The team refused to keep going. He tried walking ahead of them to see if they would follow and putting different dogs in the lead. Other mushers came by, but even that didn't rouse the dogs. They finally got the mile to the cabin. Fourteen hours after the dogs stopped, they took off but didn't make it far. Petit took them back and pushed the panic button on his GPS unit, effectively withdrawing from the race. A snowmobile brought food and then carted the dogs off the trail. Petit still expects to compete in next year's Iditarod. He's said he's planning to take his dogs next week to the problem area — the Bering Sea coast — to show them the fun they can have on that stretch of the trail. 'And that it's not always blowing, and we don't always get lost, and it can be a very positive experience as opposed to the last two years,' he said.
  • East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld did everything by the book in his fatal encounter with an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer, a defense expert says. Testifying at Rosfeld's homicide trial, retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Clifford W. Jobe Jr. maintained Rosfeld followed proper procedure when he shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. Prosecutors say Rosfeld gave inconsistent statements about the shooting, including whether he thought Rose had a gun. 'I can't fault Officer Rosfeld,' Jobe, a use-of-force expert, told jurors on Thursday. He called the officer's actions 'textbook.' Jobe will return to the stand Friday for cross-examination. Rosfeld, 30, fired three bullets into Rose after pulling over an unlicensed taxi that had been used in a drive-by shooting. Rose, a passenger in the car, was shot in the back, arm and side of his face as he fled. Rosfeld testified he thought Rose or another passenger in the car had pointed a weapon at him, and he fired in self-defense. But it turned out that neither teen had a gun at the time. 'It happened very quickly,' said Rosfeld, who took the stand in his own defense. 'My intent was to end the threat that was made against me. I just wanted to end the threat to me. I followed the threat and fired.' Rosfeld got choked up and dabbed away tears as he recounted finding the mortally wounded Rose on the ground. 'I was upset, shocked,' he said. 'He was moaning, trying to breathe.' The former officer testified after the prosecution rested its case Thursday. A prosecution witness has said that after the shooting, he heard Rosfeld say repeatedly, 'I don't know why I shot him. I don't know why I fired.' But another prosecution witness said he heard the officer ask, 'Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?' Prosecutors charged Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury can convict Rosfeld of murder or manslaughter. Rose had been riding in the front seat of the cab when another occupant, Zaijuan Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street, hitting one in the abdomen. A few minutes later, Rosfeld spotted their car, which had its rear windshield shot out, and pulled it over. Hester, 18, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and firearms violations. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.
  • A scary situation unfolded in Port Morris, New York, in the Bronx Wednesday as bricks toppled off a building, smashing into cars on the street below. >> Read more trending news  The bricks fell from a commercial building at 140 th Street near Walnut Ave., according to WPIX-TV, a New York Fire Department spokesman. The bricks damaged at least four cars, but luckily no one was in them at the time. >> Trending: Glassy, spiked ice shards on shore of Lake Michigan create otherworldly landscape Building inspectors were called to the scene to investigate.    
  • Four children were injured when an SUV drove through a parking lot, went through a wooden barrier and dropped 20 feet onto the beach in Ormond-By-The-Sea on Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol said. >> Read more trending news Troopers said the SUV ran over one child and 'bumped' three other children. WFTV obtained video captured by a resident. The video shows the SUV accelerating across the A1A. Retired police Officer Bill Norvell captured the video from a camera he installed across the street. Troopers said the children involved were younger than 11. Three of the children were taken to a hospital by ambulance, and the fourth, a 5-year-old, was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries. “One of my sisters and my brother got hit by a broken two-by-four, and the other one got ran over,” Wyatt said. Three children were released from the hospital. The 5-year-old is expected to recover but remains hospitalized. Body camera footage released Thursday shows the moments after the crash. 'You're not going to die, baby. It's OK,' the mother is heard telling one of the children in the footage. The footage shows the children calmly follow instructions given to them by deputies. Troopers said the driver of the SUV was also transported to an area hospital. They said the driver does not remember what happened. “It was not a fun experience. I'm feeling fine. I'm just worried for my sisters and my brother,” Wyatt said. The driver, 82-year-old William Johnson, was ticketed for careless driving and recommended for a driver's license re-examination.   Authorities said the driver did not experience a medical issue. The driver was distraught about the crash and expressed concern for the children, officers said. Watch the body camera footage below: Watch the surveillance video below:
  • Tyson Foods is recalling just over 69,000 pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strips over possible contamination with metal pieces. >> Read more trending news  The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall Thursday in a news release.  The frozen chicken at issue was produced on Nov. 30, 2018, and includes these products: 25-ounce plastic bag packages of frozen “Tyson Fully Cooked Buffalo Style Chicken Breast Strips Fritters With Rib Meat And Buffalo Style Sauce.” The packages have a “best-used date” of Nov. 30, 2019 and case codes 3348CNQ0317 and 3348CNQ0318.   25-ounce plastic bag packages of frozen “Tyson Fully Cooked Buffalo Style Chicken Breast Strips Fritters With Rib Meat.” The packages have a “best-used date” of Nov. 30, 2019, and case codes of 3348CNQ0419, 3348CNQ0420, 3348CNQ0421 and 3348CNQ0422.   20-pound cases of frozen “Spare Time Fully Cooked, Buffalo Style Chicken Strips Chicken Breast Strip F Fritters With Rib Meat and Buffalo Style Sauce.” The packages have a “best-used date” of Nov. 30, 2019, and a case code of 3348CNQ03.   The USDA said the problem was discovered after two complaints from consumers about extraneous material in their Tyson frozen chicken strips. >> Related: More dog food recalled over reported toxic vitamin D levels So far, the agency said it has received no reports of injuries, but it’s warning consumers to check their freezers and make sure they don’t have any of the three Tyson frozen chicken products under recall. If they do, they should throw them out or return them to the store of purchase.  
  • A transgender student in Georgia said his Hall County high school removed him from this year's prom king ballot. >> Read more trending news Johnson High School senior Dex Frier said he was nominated by the student body as one of six candidates for prom king. Frier said he was later told that he could only be on the prom queen ballot. Frier, whose birth name is Phenix, said that he started identifying as a male his sophomore year. 'They don't have a clear rule that says you have to be biologically male to run for prom king (or that) you have to be biologically female to run for prom queen. There is no rule that states that,' Frier said. Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield sent the following statement: “First, this school district has never removed any student from any prom or homecoming court. Furthermore, I will not respond publicly, in any manner, to a situation that has the potential to single out any student in any way. We protect the privacy rights of our student body. On a broader note, I am not interested in being responsible for placing our school district in a the middle of a national social, societal and legal issue which would have the potential to substantially disrupt us from our core mission of providing an education for the boys and girls in our community. Prom should be a time for students to fellowship together and celebrate their local school.”  Classmates are taking sides in dueling online petitions. An online petition calling for Frier to remain a candidate for prom king has received more than 10,000 signatures. There's also a petition with more than a dozen signatures calling for his name to not be on the ballot. 'One of the petitions states, 'If your birth certificate does not say you're a male then you shouldn't be allowed to run for prom king,'' said Frier's friend, Lena Hand. '(The other petition) has 10,000 people more than that one. They are behind us on this.' While the statement from Schofield says the district has never removed any student from prom or homecoming court, Dex said administrators told him it's a problem. 'The fact that you're trying to convince everyone this is a problem for me to run is unbearable,' he said. The prom is Saturday. Frier said win or lose, he's going to the dance.
  • Dog food company Hill’s Pet Nutrition announced it is expanding a recall from Jan. 31 over dog food containing potentially toxic levels of vitamin D. >> Read more trending news The company said it had found an issue with its vitamin premix used in canned dog food for the Jan. 31 recall. In Wednesday’s announcement, the company said there are more products affected. Some of the products included in the recall are: Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care with Lamb Canned Dog Food, 13oz, 12-pack   Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken & Vegetable Entrée Dog Food 12 x 12.8oz cans   Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Dog Food, 5.5oz, 24-pack Hill's Prescription Diet i/dLow Fat Canine Rice, Vegetable & Chicken Stew 24 x 5.5oz cans   Hill's Prescription Diet r/d Canine 12 x 12.3oz, cans   Hill's Science Diet Adult Beef & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13oz, 12-pack   Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Healthy Cuisine Roasted Chicken, Carrots & Spinach Stew Dog Food 12 x 12.5oz cans   Hill's Science Diet Healthy Cuisine Adult Braised Beef, Carrots & Peas Stew Canned Dog Food, 12.5oz, 12-pack   Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew 12.5oz   A full list of recalled products is available on Hills’ site. “We understand that this recall has caused pet parents considerable anxiety and that the well-being of their pet may have been affected,” according to a Hill’s press release. To combat the challenge, the company is expanding operating hours of its consultation service and will pay for diagnostic screening for toxic vitamin D levels. It will also reimburse pet owners for medical costs involved with eating the affected food. Last year, there was a vitamin D dog food recall involving separate brands. That recall was later expanded. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for dogs. If too much is consumed, however, it can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, or increased drooling, thirst or urination. To contact Hill’s, call 1–800–445–5777. To discuss a medical case, call 1–800–548–8387.
  • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency Thursday following flooding that left several people stranded and continues to cause damage and strain levees in several Midwest states. Parson's action will allow state agencies to work directly with local officials responding to flooding. Parson, along with the state's Emergency Management Agency director and other officials, plan to meet with local leaders and survey damage Thursday. 'The rising floodwaters are affecting more Missouri communities and farms, closing more roads and threatening levees, water treatment plants and other critical infrastructure,' Parson said in a statement. 'We will continue to work closely with our local partners to assess needs and provide resources to help as Missourians continue this flood fight and as we work to assist one another.' The Missouri River has swelled following heavy rains and snowmelt earlier this month. The flooding has claimed three lives, damaged thousands of homes and busted about 20 levees in Nebraska,Iowa and Missouri. President Donald Trump on Thursday also approved Nebraska's request for federal disaster assistance, which provides federal aid to supplement state, local and tribal recovery efforts. It also opens the door to grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help affected residents. Missouri's emergency declaration comes after state water patrol troopers worked into the night Wednesday, pulling four people from homes and three others from a boat that ran out of gas around the small town of Craig. People stacked sandbags at a nearby water treatment plant in Forest City on Thursday, while another levee breach across the river from Atchison, Kansas, threatened two towns where most residents had already left. The flooding in Craig began after yet another levee breach, and several homes were inundated with water. A local ethanol plant was also shut down amid the flooding. Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, floods, droughts and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said water was also flowing over several other levees, including one near Missouri's Bean Lake. Deb Hooper, who lives near the lake, told KMBC-TV that she has been packing for a week and even removed the water heater, but she hopes to hold out. 'Last night, they came and told us it was, like, 2 inches (5 centimeters) below the levee,' she said, adding that she was warned to leave but declined. 'I'm, like, 'No, there ain't no water yet.'' In southwest Iowa, barriers protecting about 2,300 people and thousands of acres of farmland simply weren't high enough to withstand the river, said Pat Sheldon, president of the Benton-Washington Levee District. Sheldon told television station KNCY on Wednesday that the river levee 'performed brilliantly for what it was designed to do, but it just sent more water at us than we had height.' He said it took $150 million to repair his district's levees after flooding in 2011, but he estimates it could cost $500 million to do so after this year's disaster. In Missouri, the river was expected to crest Friday in St. Joseph at the third-highest flood level on record. Water was filling a casino parking lot in the city, though only about half a dozen homes in the city aren't protected by a federal levee. Military planes were evacuated last week from nearby Rosecrans Air National Guard base. The flooding has also taken a heavy toll on agriculture, inundating tens of thousands of acres, threatening stockpiled grain and killing livestock. Nebraska's governor said his state has suffered nearly $1.4 billion in estimated losses and damage, including $840 million in crop and cattle losses. A damage estimate Thursday from the state's emergency management agency that compiled figures from county emergency managers put the damage at more than $640 million. Members of the Nebraska Army National Guard used a helicopter Wednesday to drop 10 round hay bales to stranded cattle in various spots near Richland, which is about 80 miles west of Omaha. Gov. Pete Ricketts also estimated that more than 2,000 homes and 341 businesses have been damaged or destroyed in Nebraska alone.
  • The University of Mississippi's interim leader, beset by calls from students and faculty to relocate a Confederate soldier monument, announced agreement Thursday that it should be moved from its current location on campus. Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks issued a statement that he is in discussion with historic preservation officials on moving the monument elsewhere. Student, faculty and staff groups passed resolutions earlier this month asking Sparks to move the monument to a secluded Confederate cemetery on campus. 'Our campus constituents are in alignment, and we agree that the monument should be relocated to a more suitable location,' Sparks wrote in the emailed statement to students, faculty and staff. Founded in 1848, Ole Miss has worked in fits and starts the past two decades to distance itself from Confederate imagery. Since 2016, Ole Miss has installed plaques to provide historical context about the Confederate monument and about slaves who built some pre-Civil War campus buildings. Critics who call the monument a symbol of slavery and white supremacy have kept up pressure for its relocation while others insist it remain standing as a key part of Southern history. Similar protests have played out around the country as other Confederate monuments have fallen elsewhere in recent years. Sparks hadn't announced until Thursday that he agreed with those calling for relocation of the monument. College Board trustees, who govern Mississippi's eight public universities, ultimately must approve moving the monument. They met Thursday without discussing the issue in open session and scheduled their next meeting April 18. Before any move, the university must also consult with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. An application stating the university's plan to move the monument was filed Wednesday with the agency and signed by University Architect Ian Banner. Because the monument has been designated a state landmark, the department must approve any changes. A 2004 Mississippi law says war monuments, including those commemorating the Confederacy, can't be altered but can be moved to a 'more suitable location.' Sparks had previously said the university would develop a justification that the cemetery is a more suitable location for the 1906 structure, but that was not included in Wednesday's filing. Sparks wrote that securing approvals will take 'some time.' The monument is part of a historic district that includes a number of buildings including the main administration building, called the Lyceum. The monument is as the entrance to a circular drive that leads to the Lyceum. The cemetery is in a secluded part of campus and has graves of Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh. Pro-Confederate groups from outside the university rallied at the statue Feb. 23, and Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the national anthem at a game that day to protest those activities. Because of a student-led effort, the university in 2015 stopped flying the Mississippi flag, the last state flag to prominently feature the Confederate battle emblem. The nickname for athletic teams remains the Rebels, but Ole Miss retired its Colonel Reb mascot in 2003. In 1997, administrators banned sticks in the football stadium, which largely stopped people from waving Confederate battle flags. The marching band no longer plays 'Dixie.' ___ Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy .