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The nation in brief

Swiss minister to talk education in U.S.

Switzerland's economy minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, is due to visit Washington this week and will tout his country's advanced system of vocational training as he meets officials including President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.

The earn-while-you-learn approach is gaining traction in the U.S., where postsecondary-school education is typically financed by debt. Trump issued an executive order last month to promote apprenticeships with an average starting wage of roughly $15 per hour. His predecessor, Barack Obama, signed a declaration of intent on vocational training with Switzerland in 2015 in a bid to get familiar with the country's system.

"As I talk with businesses around the country -- small businesses, large businesses -- they say 'we want to hire but the individuals that are applying don't have and haven't had an opportunity to obtain the skills we're looking for,'" U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said earlier this month.

In addition to discussing vocational education with Ivanka Trump, the topic will also be on the agenda when Schneider-Ammann meets with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Acosta, according to the Swiss government.

Anti-violence activist killed in Chicago

CHICAGO -- A Chicago community activist who worked to fight violence was fatally shot less than a block from the offices of his nonprofit, according to police and the man's relatives.

William Cooper, 58, was shot Saturday afternoon near the offices of Lilydale Outreach Workers for a Better Community on Chicago's South Side. Cooper was the principal officer of the anti-violence group, which provides jobs to teenagers.

Police said Cooper was walking when someone shot him from a dark-colored vehicle driving by. About 20 shell casings were scattered near his body, according to his wife, Sherry Clark, with whom he had three children.

No one was in custody as of Sunday afternoon and investigators had yet to identify any persons of interest, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. He said detectives are trying to determine whether Cooper was targeted or the victim of a random shooting.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the incident was among at least three fatal shootings over 18 hours Saturday and Sunday in Chicago.

Bids sought before N.J. project OK'd

TRENTON, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie's administration sought to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate New Jersey's deteriorating Statehouse four months before the project was authorized, cutting out the public in a process a bipartisan group of lawmakers describe as "rigged," according to interviews and documents.

The Christie administration put out a request for proposals for a finance company to sell bonds to rehabilitate the building in December and selected RBC Capital Markets in January, months before an April meeting of a joint legislative-executive branch committee that approved the project, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.

The Republican governor said everything was done legally and has defended his handling of the project.

"They're dealing with the insiders before they're letting the voters know," said Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski.

Current and former Treasury officials say there's nothing unusual about seeking bids on a project before final project approval.

No unit fire alarms, condo residents say

HONOLULU -- As flames raged through a Honolulu high-rise building, killing three people and injuring a dozen others, fellow residents didn't even realize a blaze had broken out until they opened their doors and saw firefighters racing to battle the inferno.

There were no building fire alarm sirens in the units at the Marco Polo high-rise apartment building where the blaze broke out, several residents said in interviews.

Britt Reller and his mother, Melba Jeannine Dilley, were among those killed, his brother told a Honolulu newspaper.

Joanna Kuwata, 71, was also killed in the fire, her sister told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Jayne Matsuyama said her sister's apartment was not damaged by fire, and she suspects she died of smoke inhalation.

Air Force cyber-technician Cory La Roe said there were no announcements or flashing lights when the fire broke out.

"I just heard a loud ringing, which is what caused me to look outside. ... After I saw people running out and went out the hallway myself, that's when I knew it was a fire alarm going off."

Gordon Kihune, who has lived in the building for about 12 years, also said he didn't hear the alarms going off when the fire broke out.

He said he "only recognized the fact that there was something wrong when I saw the firetrucks pull up, and then I poked my head out, then I could hear the alarm."

A Section on 07/17/2017

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