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LA school officials order sweeping student vaccine mandate, a first by a major district

LOS ANGELES — All children 12 and older in Los Angeles public schools must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January to enter campus under an order approved Thursday by the Board of Education, the first such mandate among the nation’s largest school systems.

The requirement cements the standing of the L.A. Unified School District as an early adopter of COVID-19 school safety measures that are wide-reaching and aggressive — a posture that has resulted in praise and pushback. The nation’s second-largest school system has moved faster and more comprehensively than most others in testing all students and employees for infection every week, requiring masks indoors and outdoors and ordering employees to get vaccinated.

L.A. schools Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said the student mandate was the next logical step to keep children, staff and community members safer from a COVID-19 pandemic that still poses significant risks.

“We’ve always approached safety with a multilayered approach: masks, air filtration and coronavirus screening,” Reilly told the Los Angeles Times. “But we are seeing without a doubt that the vaccines are one of the clearest pathways to protecting individuals from getting severe sickness as well as for mitigating transmission of the COVID virus. It is one of the best preventive measures that we have at our disposal to create a safe environment at schools.”

New York City’s school system, the largest in the nation, so far has ordered athletes in high-contact sports to begin the vaccination process before competition starts. New York City and Chicago, the nation’s third-largest district, are among a growing number of school systems that have enacted mandates for employees.

—Los Angeles Times

Girl who survived Florida massacre says gunman falsely believed parents were ‘sex traffickers’

ORLANDO, Fla. — The 11-year-old girl who survived her family’s massacre Sunday in Polk County said the former U.S. Marine gunman told her that he killed her parents because they were “sex traffickers,” which authorities said Thursday was “a figment of his imagination.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 33-year-old Bryan Riley “tortured” the girl for information on “Amber,” who he wrongly believed was a suicidal sex trafficking victim being held at the home. The girl, who has had four surgeries so far, was shot in the hand, legs, thigh and abdominal cavity, according to the sheriff.

“This 11-year-old was very brave, very smart and she out-thought him,” Judd said at a news conference. “She said, ‘I played dead and I prayed.’”

Riley told investigators he thought he had “eliminated” the child, the sheriff said.

“The suspect told us, ‘I asked God if a 12-year-old could be involved in sex trafficking, and God told me yes, and that’s when I killed her,’” Judd said.

Investigators have “no indication” that the massacre is related to widely circulating conspiracy theories around human trafficking like QAnon, said Scott Wilder, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ve found nothing so far in his background or through search warrants connecting him to those conspiracies,” he said in an email.

Riley, who is being held in jail without bond, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the massacre, which left four people dead. The victims, who Judd said have “zero connection” to Riley, include the girl’s father, 40-year-old Justice Gleason; a 33-year-old woman and her 3-month-old baby boy; and a 62-year-old woman.

The gunman also killed the family’s pet dog, Diogi.

—Orlando Sentinel

Defense in Whitmer kidnap case seeks trial delay

DETROIT — Defense lawyers late Wednesday asked a judge for a 90-day delay of next month's trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying they need more time to prepare and investigate the conduct of FBI agents who thwarted the alleged conspiracy.

The request comes five weeks before the Oct. 12 trial in federal court in Grand Rapids, one of the most closely watched cases involving alleged violent extremism in the country. Prosecutors say the accused plotters were driven by anger over state restrictions on travel and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the request, defense lawyers need more time to investigate recent developments involving the conduct of FBI agents assigned to the case and to probe the government's use of at least 12 confidential informants and undercover investigators.The lawyers say trial preparation has been complicated by voluminous evidence, including 2 terabytes of information provided by the government in late August.

"The timing and organization of the discovery productions have created significant problems for the defense in preparing for the current trial date," the lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors must respond by next Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker will consider the request on Sept. 17.

—The Detroit News

Germany opens investigations into suspected Russian cyberattacks

KARLSRUHE, Germany — Germany’s prosecutor general has opened investigations into a number of recent cyberattacks targeting German politicians, suspecting the involvement of Russian intelligence, a spokesperson for the office told dpa on Thursday.

The announcement comes after the Foreign Ministry said Monday that the German government had "reliable information" that the activities in question could be attributed to actors in Russia, "specifically to the Russian military intelligence service GRU."

The Russian government was urged to stop the illegal activities with immediate effect, the ministry said.

State security authorities informed the parliament at least three times this year about cyberattacks on lawmakers by foreign intelligence services.

Most recently, several lawmakers from the governing coalition parties — the center-right CDU/CSU and the center-left SPD — are said to have been affected.

It is feared that foreign intelligence services could use the hacks to publish personal information about the victims or even fabricated false news.

Some hacks targeting lawmakers' email accounts have been traced back to a Russian group named "Ghostwriter."

—dpa

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