Georgia panel says no to white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain

ATLANTA — White supremacists had planned on capitalizing on the international attention drawn to Atlanta during Super Bowl LIII to stage a rally at Stone Mountain next February, but the state body that oversees the park said no.

In a Nov. 7 letter, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association denied a permit to “Rock Stone Mountain II” organizers Greg Calhoun and John Estes citing a “clear and present danger” to public safety. Calhoun and Estes were among those behind the original Rock Stone Mountain, a 2016 “white power” rally that drew a handful of Confederate flag-waving white supremacists and hundreds of counterprotesters who clashed with police for hours, eventually shutting down the park.

News of the park’s decision coincides with the annual release of the FBI’s hate crime statistics, which show a 17 percent increase in bias crimes in 2017 over the prior year.

— Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Texas board debates axing historical figures like Helen Keller from history curriculum

AUSTIN — The State Board of Education has voted to keep Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller and several other historical figures in the Texas social studies curriculum.

The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, are baseline curriculum standards public school teachers use to create lesson plans and prepare for testing. During a more than 10-hour meeting Tuesday, the 15-member state board took a preliminary vote on which historical figures to remove from these standards in order to “streamline” the curriculum and provide more flexibility to teachers.

Clinton and Keller and several others were returned to the curriculum, while several others are still on the chopping block.

The board will continue their debate Wednesday morning, when it is expected to approve these changes, and will then take a final vote on the entire curriculum later in the week. The decisions will not result in an immediate change to Texas textbooks, which are not up for revision this year, but will affect what teachers must teach in the classroom under state law.

— Dallas Morning News

More children are becoming suddenly paralyzed; health officials still don’t know why

Ninety people have been diagnosed in the U.S. this year with the sudden paralysis known as acute flaccid myelitis, and 252 additional cases are being investigated, federal health officials said Tuesday.

This year’s paralysis outbreak could be the biggest the country has ever seen if the cases under investigation are confirmed, experts say.

The condition, known as AFM, closely resembles polio and is most likely to afflict children, with an average patient age of 4.

In 2014, more than 100 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with AFM after suddenly becoming paralyzed. In 2016, another outbreak paralyzed even more children. Two years later, the devastating illness is back — and worse.

“I can certainly understand why parents are worried. I’m concerned about this increase in AFM,” Nancy Meissonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s important for parents to realize that this is a relatively rare condition.”

The chance of a child getting AFM is less than one in 1 million, according to federal health officials.

— Los Angeles Times

Trump scoffs at report North Korea has undeclared nuclear sites

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump played down concern about a new report that identified 13 undeclared North Korean missile bases, saying that the U.S. was fully aware of them and suggesting that negotiations with the country remain on track.

“We fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new — and nothing happening out of the normal,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “I will be the first to let you know if things go bad!”

The 13 sites are among an estimated 20 bases, small and dispersed across the country, that are believed to have underground facilities containing mobile launchers that can be quickly dispersed to other locations, according to the report from Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Although not designed as launch sites, the bases could be used to launch short-range as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the report.

The report’s findings, which were first disclosed by The New York Times, appeared to undermine the Trump administration’s claims that its outreach to Pyongyang is making progress in getting Kim Jong Un’s regime to give up its nuclear weapons program. But experts argue that the country hasn’t made any commitment to dismantle such missile bases yet, so the fact that it would maintain them doesn’t in itself represent a breakdown in talks with the U.S.

— Bloomberg News

Gaza border quiets down after heaviest fighting since 2014

TEL AVIV, Israel — Militant groups in Gaza said Tuesday evening they would stop firing rockets into Israel, potentially ending the heaviest fighting between the sides since their 2014 war, but Israeli officials said only conditions on the ground would determine their response.

Months of contacts led by the United Nations and Egypt aimed at reaching a long-term truce had been on the brink of collapse as Gaza rocket squads unleashed the biggest bombardment of southern Israel in four years, and Israel pounded targets across the Hamas-run territory. Thirteen Gaza militants, an Israeli soldier, and a Palestinian living in Israel were killed since the violence was triggered Sunday night by a bungled Israeli intelligence operation inside Gaza.

The Israeli military said about 460 launches were identified from Gaza since Sunday night, including more than 100 intercepted by missile defenses. Israel struck about 160 targets including military compounds, weapons manufacturing and storage sites, underground tunnels, Hamas naval vessels, rocket-launching sites and Hamas’s al-Aqsa television, the military said.

Despite the militant groups’ pledge to refrain from firing rockets, the situation remained tense. Past truces have evaporated amid mutual recriminations and renewed exchanges of fire.

The clashes have dealt a blow to efforts by Egypt and the U.N. to forge a sustainable cease-fire and ease the dire humanitarian situation in the strip. The enclave has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power more than a decade ago. Sanctions applied by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, as well as Hamas’ choice to spend its money on weapons rather than infrastructure or social services, have deepened the area’s destitution.

— Bloomberg News