AP News in Brief 02-18-18

Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

PARKLAND, Fla. — Thousands of angry students, parents, teachers and neighbors of a Florida high school where 17 people were killed demanded on Saturday that immediate action be taken on gun-control legislation, insisting they would not relent until their demands were met.

The rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale gave a political outlet to the growing feelings of rage and mourning sparked by the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities say a former student who had been expelled, had mental health issues and been reported to law enforcement, used a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle to kill students and staff.

“Because of these gun laws, people that I know, people that I love, have died, and I will never be able to see them again,” Delaney Tarr, a student at the school, told the crowd swamping the steps and courtyard at the federal courthouse.

Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

MUNICH — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday there was “incontrovertible” evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an American investigator have upended the political debate over his inquiry.

The statement by H.R. McMaster at the Munich Security Conference stood in stark contrast to Trump’s oft repeated claim that Russian interference in his election victory was a hoax.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster told a Russian delegate to the conference.

The detailed document presented the most compelling public evidence to date that the Russian operation was elaborate, expensive and real. Citing emails and conversations by the perpetrators of the plot, it also demonstrated that the ongoing probe may have access to explosive intelligence material gathered on the Russian operations.

Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides.

Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn’t need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

From wire sources

Biden also expressed interest in bringing those in the room onto his team if he decides to launch a campaign. At the same time, he gave them an out: There would be no hard feelings if they decided they were content in their current roles outside of government, said the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

The political world has long tried to game out Biden’s plans for 2020. After all, he came close to running last time only to see President Donald Trump pull off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn’t have happened had he, not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee. Several people came away from the meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run.

A presidential candidate twice before, Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day if elected in 2020, a concerning prospect for some Democrats even though he’s only a few years older than Trump. One possibility that Biden’s longtime advisers have discussed privately is that he could announce his intention to serve only one term, clearing the path for his running mate to take over in 2024 and potentially setting up Democrats for a 12-year White House stretch.

Are female-led companies the answer to sexual misconduct?

NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co. thought it had found a path to survival. A group of investors led by a respected businesswoman offered to acquire the company, rebrand it and install a female-led board of directors. It was an eye-catching idea in a country where men dominate corporate boards in almost every industry.

Unmoved, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threw a wrench in the deal, filing a lawsuit against the company partly out of concern that executives who failed to protect Harvey Weinstein’s accusers would continue to run the operation. Swiftly, the Weinstein Co. fired its president and chief operating officer, David Glasser, late Friday, only five days after the lawsuit. A statement announcing the firing was released to the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

The set of moves raised the question: Is putting women in charge of a company enough to guarantee an environment safe from sexual misconduct? In the wider business world, promoting more women to boards and the C-Suite is considered a critical step, but critics caution it is not enough, particularly when it comes to turning around a company so engulfed in scandal that it has become the poster child for sexual misconduct.

“Just having a female-led board is not enough of a solution. You need to disrupt the disease within the culture and that is an entire ecosystem change,” said Lisen Stromberg, COO of the 3 Percent Movement, an organization that promotes gender equality in advertising companies.

The $500 million acquisition proposal was put together by Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former U.S. Small Business Administrator under the Obama administration. She had no background in the film industry but her proposal beat out several offers from established entertainment companies including Lionsgate and Miramax, the studio formerly led by the Weinstein brothers.

Pope revives lapsed sex abuse commission amid skepticism

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis revived his lapsed sex abuse advisory commission by naming new members Saturday, after coming under fire for his overall handling of the scandal and his support for a Chilean bishop accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

The announcement of the new members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors came on the same day that a Vatican investigator will take the testimony in New York of one of the main whistleblowers in the Chilean cover-up scandal.

Francis tasked Archbishop Charles Scicluna with the fact-finding mission into Bishop Juan Barros after he came under blistering criticism in Chile for defending Barros and calling the victims’ cover-up accusations against him slander.

The initial three-year mandate of commission members had lapsed two months ago, on Dec. 17. Francis named nine new members Saturday and kept seven from the initial group. A Vatican statement said survivors of abuse are included, but didn’t identify them to protect their privacy.

None of the most outspoken lay advocates for victims from the original group returned, but a statement stressed that the commission’s work would be imbued throughout with the experience of victims.