Month: June 2019

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NC redistricting fight turns to state courts after ruling
By GARY D. ROBERTSON | Sat, June 29, 2019 10:36 EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled federal courts aren’t the place to settle partisan gerrymandering disputes, opponents of North Carolina’s district maps are putting their hopes in state courts.
An election reform group, the state Democratic Party and voters will go to court in two weeks to try to persuade state judges that Republican-drawn General Assembly districts discriminate against Democrats based on their political beliefs and voting history.
What’s different in this case is that the plaintiffs — some of whom sued in federal court over the state’s congressional map, which ended with Thursday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision against them — argue the House and Senate boundaries violate the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.
“We are confident that justice will prevail in the North Carolina courts,” said Bob Phillips with the North Carolina office of Common Cause, which is a plaintiff in both matters. “And we will continue to work with state lawmakers to reform our broken redistricting system that has left far too many without a voice in Raleigh.”?
Voting-rights advocates across the country have vowed to turn to state litigation after Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion addressing North Carolina and Maryland cases that federal courts have no authority to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
Addressing complaints of partisan gerrymandering in state courts has already succeeded in Pennsylvania, where last year the state Supreme Court struck down congressional districts based on language in the Pennsylvania constitution that is similar to North Carolina’s. That ruling led to the court redrawing congressional lines. Democrats picked up four additional seats in 2018.
The pending partisan gerrymandering case filed in Wake County court marks at least the eighth lawsuit challenging North Carolina maps on the basis of racial and partisan bias since the current round of redistricting began in 2011. The lawsuits resulted in redrawing congressional lines in 2016 and legislative districts in 2017 — both to address racial bias. The state has spent millions of taxpayer dollars defending the maps.
Unlike the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court that would hear the appeal of the trial court’s decision has six registered Democrats and one Republican.
“My guess is that the North Carolina court — given its composition — will think differently than the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Guy-Uriel Charles, a Duke University redistricting expert and co-director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics.
In previous decades, the state’s Democrats drew maps favoring their candidates that also ended up in court. U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s plowed new ground on the limits of shaping boundaries to achieve more representation by candidates supported by black voters.
But litigation by political rivals and civil rights groups went into high gear against Republicans who controlled the mapmaking after winning legislative majorities in 2010. There was a national effort by the GOP to win statehouses and set the course for district lines.
North Carolina maps drawn in 2011 helped legislators create veto-proof majorities at the General Assembly, allowing them to advance their agenda on taxes, abortion and the environment. Republicans ultimately held 10 of North Carolina’s 13 seats in Congress.
The North Carolina House’s chief mapmaker this decade has called on the plaintiffs in state court to withdraw their case because of Thursday’s ruling. Those suing have no plans to withdraw.
“The U.S. Supreme Court just reaffirmed that redistricting is an issue that should be worked on here by elected legislators, not decided in court,” state Rep. David Lewis said.
Roberts’ opinion, however, doesn’t say state judges are prevented from adjudicating these matters. “Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply,” he wrote.
Plaintiffs in the North Carolina case are equipped with what they allege is damming information from longtime GOP redistricting consultant Thomas Hofeller, who died last year. Their attorneys have said the records, subpoenaed from Hofeller’s estranged daughter, will show Republican lawmakers misled judges about how and when legislative maps are drawn.
“When Americans hear what those motives are, we believe that the people will soundly reject partisan gerrymandering and replace it with much more transparent and community-driven processes,” said Kathay Feng, Common Cause’s national redistricting director.
Lawyers for GOP legislators said no one lied and suggest Hofeller’s documents may have been obtained in an unethical manner. The three-judge panel presiding over the July 15 trial scheduled a hearing next week to decide whether materials from Hofeller or his daughter can be used.
Should the state Supreme Court ultimately rule against Republicans, they could be forced to draw new maps and have them ready for the 2020 elections. Democrats already made electoral gains in 2018 that ended the GOP’s veto-proof majorities at the General Assembly.
They need to win only five additional seats in both House and Senate next year to take back full control. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh said he’s confident Democrats can win a majority in his chamber. But he insists that they’ll resist the temptation of taking the reins of drawing maps for partisan advantage for the next 10 years.
Democrats and some Republicans have pitched the idea for years of giving the job of drawing districts to an outside group. Voters in five other states approved redistricting commissions in 2018 — another method reformers plan to keep pushing.
“We have made that promise — I have made that promise — to do an independent commission,” Jackson said.

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Hiker missing for a week in California mountains found alive
Sat, June 29, 2019 07:22 EDT
LA CRESCENTA, Calif. (AP) — A hiker who was missing in the mountains north of Los Angeles for a week was found Saturday and has apparently survived in the wilderness by drinking water from a creek, authorities said.
A helicopter crew found Eugene Jo, 73, in a canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains and hoisted him to safety, Sgt. Greg Taylor with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department said.
The crew flew him to a hospital to be examined.
The Montrose Search and Rescue team tweeted that Jo was “walking and speaking” despite not having had eaten in at least five days. He survived by drinking water from a creek. Temperatures have been mild in the mountains.
Jo was hiking with a group to the 8,000-foot (2,438-meter) summit of Mount Waterman on June 22 when he became separated from them.
Taylor said more than 70 people were searching for him in the mountains Saturday.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Oregon state senator who threatened police faces complaint
Associated Press | Sat, June 29, 2019 06:31 EDT
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A formal complaint has been filed against Oregon Republican state Sen. Brian Boquist, who drew criticism for threatening state police amid a GOP walkout over climate legislation, the chairman of the state’s conduct committee said Saturday.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the complaint will receive a hearing in early July. He declined to elaborate on the substance of the complaint, and would not say who filed it.
“I will not make any comments as to what’s alleged or what’s in the report because it is pending before the committee,” Prozanski said. “As the chair, I do not believe it’s appropriate for me to make comment until we, as a full committee, take what actions we’re going to take.”
Sen. Brian Boquist came under fire this month after saying Oregon State Police should “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they attempted to bring him to the Capitol amid a Republican walkout that shut down the Senate for nine days.
Republicans, who make up the minority in the Legislature, refused to come to the Capitol in protest of legislation aimed at lowering the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the Senate but need at least 20 members — and therefore at least two Republicans — present to vote on legislation.
Gov. Kate Brown deployed the Oregon State Police to track down the missing Republicans and hit them with a $500 fine for every day they missed.
Boquist publicly lashed out against the Senate president just prior to the walkout, saying “if you send the state police to get me, hell’s coming to visit you personally.”
Days later, the Senate leader ordered the Capitol closed because of a “possible militia threat” from far-right groups, who said they would join a peaceful protest organized by Republicans. The threat, however, never materialized.
One of those groups, the Oregon Three Percenters, joined an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 and has offered safe passage to senators on the run.
Boquist was one of three senators not to appear on the floor Saturday morning, though Republican staff members expected him to return later in the afternoon. He did not return requests for comment.
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Information from: KOPB-FM, http://news.opb.org

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DMZ, where Trump met Kim, is a vestige of Cold War
By HYUNG-JIN KIM | Sun, June 30, 2019 03:38 EDT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Demilitarized Zone, where President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday, may be the most heavily fortified strip of land in the world and serves as an uneasy and occasionally bloody borderline between the two Koreas.
There isn’t much demilitarized about it: A minefield laced with barbed wire, it’s guarded by combat-ready troops on both sides and has been the site of numerous, sometimes deadly gunbattles and skirmishes. U.S. presidents and other top officials have often travelled to the DMZ to reaffirm their commitment to the defense of ally South Korea in times of hostility with North Korea.
The venue of the third Trump-Kim meeting was the Korean border village of Panmunjom. Last year, Kim stepped over into the southern side of Panmunjom for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean land. On Sunday, Trump became the first U.S. president to cross over the demarcation line into the North Korean territory.
Here’s a look at a border that was once again a part of history:
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DMZ ORIGIN
The DMZ, which runs across the Korean Peninsula, is 248 kilometers (154 miles) long and the 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide. Created as a buffer at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, it’s jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea.
Hundreds of thousands of North and South Korean troops are now deployed along the DMZ, which is littered with an estimated 2 million mines, tank traps, razor wire fences and guard posts.
It’s extremely rare for anyone to cross the DMZ in unauthorized areas. More than 30,000 North Koreans have escaped to South Korea for political and economic reasons since the war’s end, but mostly via the North’s long, porous border with China.
Violence was more common in the Cold War, but a 2015 land mine blast blamed on North Korea maimed two South Korean soldiers and pushed the rival Koreas to the brink of an armed conflict.
As relations improved last year, Kim and Moon agreed on several deals aimed at reducing animosity at the border. They removed mines from certain areas, dismantled some of their guard posts and halted frontline live-fire exercises. Experts say tensions can easily return if diplomacy eventually fails to end the North Korean nuclear stalemate.
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PANMUNJOM
Inside the DMZ, Panmunjom has been the venue for past high-level talks. It’s somewhat safer than other areas, and it is just an hour’s drive from Seoul. Most past DMZ visits by U.S. presidents and other officials happened at Panmunjom and nearby areas.
North and South Korean troops stand only several meters (yards) away from each other there. They once carried pistols, but since last year’s deals they aren’t armed.
Panmunjom is also where an armistice was signed to stop the Korean War. That armistice has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war. About 28,500 American troops are still stationed in South Korea.
Panmunjom is 52 kilometers (32 miles) north of Seoul and 147 kilometers (91 miles) south of Pyongyang.
Since the armistice, more than 830 rounds of talks have been held in various Panmunjom conference rooms.
Panmunjom is where, during his first summit with Moon in April 2018, Kim stepped across the concrete slabs that form the military demarcation line and the leaders shook hands. Kim then took Moon’s hand and led him back across the borderline into the North, where they posed for a photo together before returning to the South for a summit.
Before that, the most famous incident at Panmunjom happened in 1976, when ax-wielding North Korean soldiers killed two U.S. officers sent out to trim a tree that obstructed the view from a checkpoint. Washington sent nuclear-capable bombers toward the DMZ in response. Animosities eased after then leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un, expressed regret over the incident.
In 2017, North Korean soldiers sprayed bullets at a colleague who was making a dash for the border. He survived and now lives in South Korea.
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PAST PRESIDENTIAL VISITS
In 1993, President Bill Clinton visited Panmunjom when the North Korean nuclear crisis first flared. In 2002, President George W. Bush visited the DMZ a few weeks after he labeled North Korea part of an “axis of evil.”
In March 2012, Kim came down to Panmunjom and met front-line North Korean troops in his first known visit to the area since taking power in late 2011. He gave the troops rifles and machine guns as souvenirs and ordered them to maintain “maximum alertness,” according to state media.
Days after Kim’s Panmunjom trip and ahead of a planned North Korean long-range rocket launch, President Barack Obama visited a front-line U.S. military camp just south of the DMZ and told American troops they are protectors of “freedom’s frontier.”
In November 2017, Trump planned to visit the DMZ with Moon to underscore his stance on North Korea’s nuclear program, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tens of thousands join gay pride parades around the world
By AMY GUTHRIE | Sat, June 29, 2019 09:15 EDT
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of people turned out for gay pride celebrations around the world on Saturday, including a boisterous party in Mexico and the first pride march in North Macedonia’s capital.
Rainbow flags and umbrellas swayed and music pounded as the march along Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma avenue got underway, with couples, families and activists seeking to raise visibility for sexual diversity in the country.
Same-sex civil unions have been legal in Mexico City since 2007, and gay marriage since 2009. A handful of Mexican states have also legalized same-sex unions, which are supposed to be recognized nationwide. But pride participants said Mexico has a long way to go in becoming a more tolerant and accepting place for LGBTQ individuals.
“There’s a lot of machismo, a lot of ignorance still,” said Monica Nochebuena, who identifies as bisexual.
Nochebuena, 28, attended the Mexico City march for the first time with her mother and sister on Saturday, wearing a shirt that said: “My mama already knows.” Her mother’s shirt read: “My daughter already told me.”
Human rights activist Jose Luis Gutierrez, 43, said the march is about visibility, and rights, especially for Mexico’s vulnerable transgender population. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that poverty, exclusion and violence reduce life expectancy for trans women in the Americas to 35 years.
In New York City, Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, when a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan led to a riot and days of demonstrations that morphed into a sustained LGBTQ liberation movement. The city’s huge Pride parade on Sunday also swings past the bar.
Other LGBTQ celebrations took place from India to Europe, with more events planned for Sunday.
In the North Macedonian capital of Skopje, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm attended the first pride march there in a festive and incident-free atmosphere despite a countermarch organized by religious and “pro-family” organizations.
People from across Macedonia took part, along with marchers from neighboring Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia and other countries.
“This year Skopje joined more than 70 Pride (marches) and the USA are very proud to be part of this,” Schweitzer-Bluhm told reporters. “There is a lot of progress here in North Macedonia but still a lot has to be done.”
In Paraguay, about 2,000 people paraded through the capital some carrying signs saying “Universities Free of Homophobia” and “Equal Rights.”
The gay pride march came on the same day that conservative Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez tweeted: “We will defend the family as the basis of society and the protection of life from conception.”

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The Latest: Erdogan says Russian defense missiles on track
Fri, June 28, 2019 11:32 EDT
OSAKA, Japan (AP) — The Latest on the Group of 20 summit meetings in Osaka, Japan (all times local):
12:30 p.m.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he expects the scheduled delivery of Russian air defense missiles under a contract that has vexed the United States.
Erdogan said Saturday at the start of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, that the deal is a priority and the delivery of the S-400 air defense systems should start without delay.
The U.S. has strongly urged NATO member Turkey to pull back from the deal, but Ankara has refused to budge and the first shipments are expected next month. It would mark the first such deal between Russia and a NATO member.
Putin hailed growing bilateral trade and a rising flow of Russian tourists to Turkey.
Russia and Turkey have closely coordinated their actions in Syria, signing a de-escalation deal for the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold.
That deal has recently been tested by increased fighting, raising the prospect of a government offensive and a major humanitarian crisis.
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12:15 p.m.
President Donald Trump has sat down for talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Osaka.
The two leaders spoke of good intentions as the meeting began Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Their discussions are expected to focus at least in part on the bitter dispute over technology and trade that has triggered a tariffs war between the two largest economies.
Xi started his comments with a reference to “ping-pong diplomacy” that launched the U.S. normalization of relations with Beijing nearly 50 years ago.
He noted that “cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation.” He added that, “Today I’m prepared to exchange views with you concerning the growth of U.S.-China relations so as to set the direction for our relationship.”
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11:10 a.m.
Group of 20 leaders have joined their host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in showcasing support for helping women close the gap with men in finance and other forms of economic empowerment.
Ivanka Trump, adviser to President Donald Trump, said Saturday that the world economy would get a boost of up to $28 trillion by 2025 if women were on an equal economic footing. She was speaking at a special session on the issue at the G-20 summit in Osaka that included her father. She described improving the status of women as “smart economic and defense policy.”
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the U.N. secretary-general’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development, says “it is really necessary to close this gap for women to be economically empowered.”
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Conviction comes after DNA, family tree crack 1987 killings
Fri, June 28, 2019 08:04 EDT
EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A jury convicted a Washington state man Friday in the killings of a young Canadian couple more than three decades ago — a case that was finally solved when investigators turned to powerful genealogy software to build a family tree of the then-unknown suspect.
Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Jay Cook, disappeared in November 1987 after leaving their home near Victoria, British Columbia, for what was supposed to be an overnight trip to Seattle. Their bodies were found in separate locations in northwestern Washington state about a week later.
Investigators preserved DNA evidence that was recovered from Van Cuylenborg’s body and pants, but they didn’t know whose it was until last year. Authorities used genetic genealogy to identify the suspect as William Earl Talbott II, a construction worker and truck driver who was 24 at the time of the killings and lived near where Cook’s body was discovered.
The genealogy technique has revolutionized cold-case investigations across the U.S. in the past year. It involves entering crime-scene DNA profiles into public genealogy databases, finding relatives of the person who left the DNA and building family trees that lead detectives to a suspect.
Talbott did not testify during the trial in Snohomish County Superior Court, and the jury rejected the suggestion from his lawyers that he had sex with Van Cuylenborg but did not kill her or her boyfriend. It’s still unknown how Talbott encountered the pair and what happened during their final days.
“It’s been such a long wait for all of us,” John Van Cuylenborg, Tanya’s older brother, said after the verdict in a video posted by The Daily Herald newspaper . “It feels great to have some answers. We don’t have all the answers, but we have a lot more than we had for 31 years.”
When the couple didn’t return from their trip as scheduled, their families began a frantic search for them, including renting a plane to try to spot the copper-colored Ford van they had been driving.
About a week later, Van Cuylenborg’s body was found down an embankment in a rural area north of Seattle. She had been shot in the back of the head.
Hunters found Cook dead two days later in brush near a bridge over the Snoqualmie River — about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from where his girlfriend was discovered. He had been beaten with rocks and strangled with twine and two red dog collars, authorities said.
Talbott flinched and gasped when the jury read its verdict, then was pushed out of the courtroom in a wheelchair, the newspaper reported.
He is one of dozens of suspects authorities have arrested in old cases over the past year through the genetic genealogy, including a California man charged in the Golden State Killer case. The serial attacker killed 13 people and raped nearly 50 women during the 1970s and 1980s.
In Talbott’s case, a genetic genealogist used a DNA profile entered into the GEDmatch database to identify distant cousins of the suspect, build a family tree linking those cousins and figure out that the sample must have come from a male child of William and Patricia Talbott.
The couple had only one son: William Talbott II.
Once Talbott was identified as a suspect, investigators tailed him, saw him discard a coffee cup and then tested the DNA from the cup, confirming it matched evidence from the crime, prosecutor Justin Harleman told jurors during the trial.
“The use of GEDmatch — I hope more and more people will be willing to allow their DNA on these sites so that this world can be safer,” said Cook’s sister, Laura Baanstra.
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This story has been corrected to show Talbott’s name was misspelled on second reference.

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DMZ, where Trump may meet Kim, is a vestige of Cold War
By HYUNG-JIN KIM | Sat, June 29, 2019 02:48 EDT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Demilitarized Zone, where U.S. President Donald Trump wants to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday, may be the most heavily fortified strip of land in the world and serves as an uneasy and occasionally bloody borderline between the two Koreas.
There isn’t much demilitarized about it: A minefield laced with barbed wire, it’s guarded by combat-ready troops on both sides and has been the site of numerous, sometimes deadly gun-battles and skirmishes. U.S. presidents and other top officials have often travelled to the DMZ to reaffirm their commitment to the defense of ally South Korea in times of hostility with North Korea.
If Kim accepts Trump’s offer for a cross-border handshake, the most likely spot inside the DMZ where the two can meet is the Korean border village of Panmunjom. Last year, Kim stepped over into the southern side of Panmunjom for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean land.
Here’s a look at a border that could once again be a part of history:
___
DMZ ORIGIN
The DMZ, which runs across the Korean Peninsula, is 248 kilometers (154 miles) long and the 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide. Created as a buffer at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, it’s jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea.
Hundreds of thousands of North and South Korean troops are now deployed along the DMZ, which is littered with an estimated 2 million mines, tank traps, razor wire fences and guard posts.
It’s extremely rare for anyone to cross the DMZ in unauthorized areas. More than 30,000 North Koreans have escaped to South Korea for political and economic reasons since the war’s end, but mostly via the North’s long, porous border with China.
Violence was more common in the Cold War, but a 2015 land mine blast blamed on North Korea maimed two South Korean soldiers and pushed the rival Koreas to the brink of an armed conflict.
As relations improved last year, Kim and Moon agreed on several deals aimed at reducing animosity at the border. They removed mines from certain areas, dismantled some of their guard posts and halted frontline live-fire exercises. Experts say tensions can easily return if diplomacy eventually fails to end the North Korean nuclear stalemate.
___
PANMUNJOM
If Trump is going to meet Kim inside the DMZ, Panmunjom is the most likely place. It has been the venue for past high-level talks. It’s somewhat safer than other areas, and it is just an hour’s drive from Seoul, where Trump will meet with Moon. Most past DMZ visits by U.S. presidents and other officials happened at Panmunjom and nearby areas.
North and South Korean troops stand only several meters (yards) away from each other there. They once carried pistols, but since last year’s deals they aren’t armed.
Panmunjom is also where an armistice was signed to stop the Korean War. That armistice has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war. About 28,500 American troops are still stationed in South Korea.
Panmunjom is 52 kilometers (32 miles) north of Seoul and 147 kilometers (91 miles) south of Pyongyang.
Since the armistice, more than 830 rounds of talks have been held in various Panmunjom conference rooms.
Panmunjom is where, during his first summit with Moon in April 2018, Kim stepped across the concrete slabs that form the military demarcation line and the leaders shook hands. Kim then took Moon’s hand and led him back across the borderline into the North, where they posed for a photo together before returning to the South for a summit.
Before that, the most famous incident at Panmunjom happened in 1976, when ax-wielding North Korean soldiers killed two U.S. officers sent out to trim a tree that obstructed the view from a checkpoint. Washington sent nuclear-capable bombers toward the DMZ in response. Animosities eased after then leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un, expressed regret over the incident.
In 2017, North Korean soldiers sprayed bullets at a colleague who was making a dash for the border. He survived and now lives in South Korea.
___
PAST PRESIDENTIAL VISITS
In 1993, President Bill Clinton visited Panmunjom when the North Korean nuclear crisis first flared. In 2002, President George W. Bush visited the DMZ a few weeks after he labeled North Korea part of an “axis of evil.”
In March 2012, Kim Jong Un came down to Panmunjom and met front-line North Korean troops in his first known visit to the area since taking power in late 2011. He gave the troops rifles and machine guns as souvenirs and ordered them to maintain “maximum alertness,” according to state media.
Days after Kim’s Panmunjom trip and ahead of a planned North Korean long-range rocket launch, President Barack Obama visited a front-line U.S. military camp just south of the DMZ and told American troops they are protectors of “freedom’s frontier.”
In November 2017, Trump planned to visit the DMZ with Moon to underscore his stance on North Korea’s nuclear program, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border.

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Police arrest man suspected of killing Utah college student
By LINDSAY WHITEHURST | Fri, June 28, 2019 09:56 EDT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah college student missing 11 days was abducted and killed and her remains burned in the yard of a man now facing aggravated murder and other charges, authorities said Friday.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, who became emotional at times during a morning press conference, said Ayoola A. Ajayi will be charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.
He was arrested without incident Friday morning by a SWAT team.
Ajayi, 31, is an information technology worker who attended college on and off but never earned a degree and was briefly in the Army National Guard but didn’t complete basic training.
He doesn’t have a criminal record, according to online court information, but a northern Utah police department said he was accused of a rape in 2014. Police investigated but the alleged victim, an adult woman, declined to pursue charges, North Park police said in a news release.
Brown said telling the missing woman’s parents in Southern California was “one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made.” Her parents are “devastated and heartbroken by this news.”
Lueck disappeared on June 17, after she returned from a trip home for her grandmother’s funeral and took a Lyft ride from the airport to a park north of Salt Lake City. She was last seen apparently willingly meeting someone there at about 3 a.m.
Her text conversation with Ajayi was her last communication and phone location data shows them both at the park within a minute of each other, Brown said.
“This was the same time as Mackenzie’s phone stopped receiving any further data or location services,” he said.
He declined to say whether or how exactly they knew each other. Ajayi has acknowledged texting with Lueck around 6 p.m. on June 16, but denied talking to her later, knowing what she looked like or having seen any online profile for her — despite having several photos, including a profile picture, Brown said.
The police chief said investigators were seeking to determine if others were involved. A second person was questioned at the time of his arrest and later released, Brown said.
Police have not discussed a motive for the killing, or specified a cause of death. A judge ordered Ajayi held without bail. It was not known if he has an attorney to speak on his behalf. He had not returned previous messages from The Associated Press prior to his arrest.
After discovering that Ajayi was the last person Lueck communicated with, police searched his home on Wednesday and Thursday. Police Thursday described him as a “person of interest.”
In his backyard, they said they found a “fresh dig area,” and charred items that belonged to Lueck. They also found burned human remains that matched her DNA profile, Brown said.
Ajayi has worked in information technology for several companies including Dell and Goldman Sachs, according to his LinkedIn page. Goldman Sachs confirmed he worked as a contract employee for less than a year at the Salt Lake City office ending in August 2018. Dell said Ajayi had worked there but didn’t provide his dates of employment.
Ajayi also appeared to have pursued employment in modeling with a bio page on a website called modelmanagement.com. Court records show he is divorced.
Lueck was a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing, and was expected to graduate in Spring 2020. She had been a student since 2014 and had an off-campus apartment. The university offered counseling services to any students or staffers affected by her death.
She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said. Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.
Lueck’s uncle, who did not provide his name at the police press conference, held back tears as he read a statement from her family thanking the investigators for their work.
“They’re also grateful to her community, her friends and others around the nation who have supported this investigation,” he said.
She was a bubbly, nurturing person who helped others and took care of animals like guinea pigs, hedgehogs and cats, friends have said. They did not respond to requests for comment after the arrest was announced.
Lueck’s sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, said in a statement the group is grieving her loss and hoping the members closest to her can find comfort as they remember her lasting impact on her loved ones.
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Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Morgan Smith contributed to this report.

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Alabama woman charged in fetal death, her shooter goes free
By BLAKE PATERSON | Fri, June 28, 2019 06:37 EDT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama district attorney’s office hasn’t decided whether to prosecute a woman indicted for manslaughter after she lost her fetus when she was shot during a fight.
Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach during a December altercation over the fetus’s father, authorities said.
Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Jones started the fight, and Jemison ultimately fired in self-defense. Jones, 28, was indicted by that same grand jury Wednesday.
The indictment stated Jones did “intentionally cause the death” of “Unborn Baby Jones by initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant.”
However, the office of District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington said there has been no decision on whether to pursue the case against Jones.
With Washington out of the country, her chief assistant D.A. Valerie Hicks Powe put out a statement expressing “sympathy for all the families involved, including Mrs. Jones, who lost her unborn child.” Both prosecutors are African American women; Washington took office in 2017 as the first black female district attorney to be elected in Alabama.
While the grand jury “had its say,” Powe said the office has “not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it.” She promised a thorough review and “an outcome that is most just for all the parties involved.”
“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case, resulting in the death of an unborn child,” she said. “The fact that this tragedy was 100 percent avoidable makes this case even more disheartening.”
A Birmingham law firm, White Arnold & Dowd, said in a statement Friday that it is representing Jones.
“Marshae has been subjected to extraordinary violence, trauma and loss over the past year,” the statement reads, adding that Jones recently lost her home to a fire and lost her job. “Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”
The law firm also noted that Jones has no criminal history and is raising a young daughter.
Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid had called the fetus “the only true victim,” having been brought unnecessarily into a fight and “dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm.”
A 2006 Alabama law allows homicide charges to be brought when a fetus or embryo is killed. The law was named “Brody’s Law” on behalf of the unborn son of Brandy Parker, who was nearly nine months pregnant when she was shot and killed in 2005. Lawmakers said at the time that would allow for two murder charges when a pregnant woman is killed.
However, a section of the 2006 law also notes that the provision does not authorize prosecution of a “woman with respect to her unborn child.” That wording could become an issue in the case against Jones.
Advocates for women’s rights expressed outrage over Jones’ arrest.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said women across the country have been prosecuted for manslaughter or murder for having an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage.
She said Alabama currently leads the nation in charging women for crimes related to their pregnancies. She said hundreds have been prosecuted for running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute by exposing their embryo or fetus to controlled substances.
But this is the first time she’s heard of a pregnant woman being charged after getting shot.
“This takes us to a new level of inhumanity and illegality towards pregnant women,” Paltrow said. “I can’t think of any other circumstance where a person who themselves is a victim of a crime is treated as the criminal.”
The district attorney’s office said it will decide how to proceed “only after all due diligence has been performed.”
Alabama is one of dozens of states that have fetal homicide laws allowing criminal charges when fetuses are killed in violent acts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Jones’ arrest also drew criticism from the Yellowhammer Fund, which raises money to help women have access to abortions.
“The state of Alabama has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act,” said Amanda Reyes, the group’s director.
___
Associated Press reporters Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama, contributed to this report.

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Flint hears from prosecutors who dropped water charges
By DAVID EGGERT | Sat, June 29, 2019 09:05 EDT
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors who dropped charges against eight people in the Flint water scandal explained their decision in a public forum Friday night, telling frustrated, shocked and saddened residents they must look at hundreds of mobile devices and millions of documents that a previous investigative team never reviewed.
Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke to about 100 residents Friday night at a union hall in the city, two weeks after dismissing charges against the former state health director and other officials. The three-year probe has started over, and charges could be refiled.
“We have received information that is absolutely relevant to our investigation that we have never had before,” said Hammoud, who took over the investigation of Flint’s lead-contaminated water in January following the election of Dana Nessel, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. Nessel is not involved in the criminal probe because she is working to resolve Flint residents’ lawsuits against the state.
Hammoud cited the need to review 20 million documents and said her team uncovered in a month, with search warrants , what previous investigators had not retrieved in three years.
The prosecutors criticized how their predecessors cut seven other officials plea deals resulting in no jail time or criminal records.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Worthy, who also joined the criminal team.
Some residents were shocked by the massive amount of new materials being reviewed and that the statute of limitations for one felony crime — misconduct in office — could expire in nine months. Others thanked the new prosecutors, agreeing the prior investigation was inadequate.
Arthur Woodson said defendants who pleaded no contest “got less time for poisoning over 98,000 people than somebody stealing a slice of pizza. People have died. … I have PTSD. It’s hard to trust. But what I heard here today: Y’all have been totally honest.”
A tearful Marijoyce Campbell said she had a “heavy heart” after learning about the new documents and being told some materials the previous investigative team had were heavily redacted.
“I cannot believe something like this can happen,” she said. “Please, please tell me some heads are going to roll, that somebody is going to pay for all this murder, all this criminal activity.”
Other people demanded charges against Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, who has apologized for his administration’s role in the crisis, and a closer look at local officials involved in the construction of a regional pipeline that was a factor in the temporary switch to using water from the Flint River. The prosecutors said they will go where the evidence takes them.
“A lot of us are really angry, and we want to see some justice,” said Claudia Perkins-Milton, adding that the new prosecutors “are the ones to do it.”
“There’s a lot of criminals in this case,” she said. “It’s wide open.”
Another resident, Laura MacIntyre, criticized how prosecutors announced their decision.
“Do you not realize how it felt when you released to the press dropping the charges without coming here first? Without any kind of communication?” she said.
She said the public forum should have been held sooner. Hammoud apologized for the delay.
Flint faced a man-made health emergency after lead from old pipes leached into drinking water in 2014 and 2015 due to a lack of corrosion-control treatment following a change in the water source while the financially strapped city was under state emergency management. The switch also has been linked to a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.
Four of the eight defendants were facing the most serious charge — involuntary manslaughter — including former state Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who was accused of failing to timely warn the public about the spike in Legionnaires’ cases, and former chief medical executive Eden Wells. Both were in Snyder’s Cabinet. Legal experts have questioned if the manslaughter charges will be revived, noting the difficulty proving that high-level officials directly caused deaths.
Schuette again defended his team’s work Friday.
“We took the steps that preserved the evidence in this case. And our work was not done,” he said in a statement. “Two judges bound significant cases over for trial. And we were prepared to go forward with robust prosecutions. But this is not about prosecutor versus prosecutor. This has always been, and only been, a fight for justice for the families of Flint. We acknowledge it’s their case now and we wish them success in their pursuit of justice for the people of Flint.”
___
Follow Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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AP PHOTOS: Spanish town hosts annual wine battle
By ALVARO BARRIENTOS | Sat, June 29, 2019 07:07 EDT
HARO, Spain (AP) — Getting drenched with red wine might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it is the idea behind one of Spain’s most popular — and unusual — fiestas.
The town of Haro staged the annual Wine Battle in Spain’s Rioja wine-growing region on Saturday.
Organizers say the aim is to “cover your neighbor in wine as quickly and completely as you can.”
After an early morning Mass is held, participants throw wine over each other while music plays until the 70,000 liters (18,500 gallons) of free wine run out.
Among the rules for those taking part: they must wear white, with a red sash; they may use wine-filled water pistols, garden sprayers or buckets; and at no point during the battle can they stop laughing and singing.
Thousands of people come away from Haro’s vineyards and woodland soaked from head to toe.
The event is held to celebrate St. Peter and the region’s plentiful wine output. It ends with a big lunch.
The festival draws mostly young visitors, from as far away as Australia.

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EU, South American bloc strike long-sought free trade deal
By LUIS ANDRES HENAO and LORNE COOK | Fri, June 28, 2019 10:31 EDT
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — South America’s Mercosur bloc and the European Union struck a free-trade deal Friday after two decades of negotiations that concluded amid global trade tensions and rising protectionism.
The agreement announced by both sides came as trade talks between the EU and the United States have stalled with the Trump administration threatening to impose tariffs on all autos, a major European export to the U.S.
“In the midst of international trade tensions, we are sending today a strong signal with our Mercosur partners that we stand for rules-based trade,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said following the clinching of the deal in the Belgian capital of Brussels.
Juncker described the pact with the bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as “an historic moment” that came 20 years after talks were launched. It shows the European bloc is determined to remain a flag-bearer of the global trade system at a time when it is being challenged by a Trump administration skeptical of free trade.
Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said the agreement “will mean the integration of a market of some 800 million people, nearly a fourth of the world’s gross domestic product and more than $100 billion in bilateral trade of goods and services.”
The ministry said the deal also is aimed at strengthening political and cultural ties with the EU, improving access to goods, services and investments by reducing restrictions and easing access to technology and raw materials.
Juncker said the deal would remove most tariffs on EU exports to Mercosur, saving more than 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) worth of duties each year, four times as much as Europe’s pact with Japan.
The commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 28-nation EU, said the agreement is particularly important for industrial sectors like cars and car parts, machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals as well as clothing and footwear. Mercosur hopes to benefit with more exports of agricultural products including beef, poultry and sugar.
The EU’s farm and food sector also stands to gain, particularly products like chocolates, wine and spirits.
“The basics of this deal have been quite clear for some time. It’s cars and machinery and agriculture. But in the past, politics have stood in the way. Particularly in Brazil, which has had a very protectionist policy focusing on domestic production,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, senior fellow, at the Peterson Institute for international economics. “And at the same time, the Europeans have been very protective of their agricultural sector.”
The commission said the deal, which still must be ratified by the legislatures of all the countries involved, will also ease border checks and cut red tape.
The agreement brings to 15 the number of pacts the EU has concluded since 2014, most recently with Canada and Japan, and comes as the bloc pushes ahead with international trade deals.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called it one “of the most important trade agreements of all times.”
The Brazilian government said the deal would boost Latin America’s largest economy by slashing tariffs for some agricultural products like orange juice, fruit and instant coffee, and expanding access via quotas for beef, ethanol and sugar.
“Brazilian companies will benefit from the elimination of tariffs on exports of 100 percent of industrial products. That will equalize the conditions of competition with other partners that already have free trade agreements with the EU,” it said.
The deal is “a game changer in Latin America as a whole, which historically has been very protectionist,” Kirkegaard said. “This could herald in a new era for Mercosur.”
Negotiations began on June 28, 1999, but have taken a long, torturous path marked by breaks and frustrations, as the countries’ different sensitivities and priorities were taken into account.
But EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the talks gathered momentum early this year, aided in part by a new Brazilian government that made the deal one of its priorities, and were pushed over the line by intensive negotiations over the last three days in Brussels.
“This is a landmark agreement,” Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels, flanked by negotiators and senior officials.
“With this deal we are showing that we believe that trade is a good thing. It brings people and companies together, and we send a loud and clear message in support of open, sustainable, mutually beneficial, rule-based trade.”
___
Cook reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Carson Gardiner and Yesica Fisch in Rio de Janeiro and Chris Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.

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Suspected suicide bombings in Philippine army camp kill 7
By JIM GOMEZ | Fri, June 28, 2019 01:46 EDT
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Two suspected Muslim militant suicide attackers detonated bombs in an army camp in the southern Philippines on Friday, killing three soldiers, two civilians and themselves, military officials said.
Twelve other soldiers were wounded in the “inhumane” attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on the headquarters of an army brigade combat team in southern Sulu province’s Indanan town, officials said. About 300 newly deployed soldiers were based in the combat camp, they said.
The military has deployed large numbers of troops to predominantly Muslim Sulu to bolster a months-long offensive against remnants of the Abu Sayyaf, which is listed by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.
Military officials initially provided sketchy details of the noontime attack and refused to confirm that suicide attackers were involved as an investigation was underway. The Associated Press, however, saw an initial military report that blamed two suicide bombers for the deadly assault.
Regional military spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas later acknowledged two suspected militants detonated the bombs in a rare suicide attack at the camp. Two military officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the attack, also corroborated Encinas’ account.
Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana called the attack inhumane. “We will intensify our offensives to crush terrorist groups that hamper the stability and development in Sulu,” he said in a statement.
One of the militants tried to enter the camp but was accosted by two soldiers at the gate. The militant managed to detonate his bomb, killing himself, the two soldiers who stopped him outside the gate and a third soldier behind the gate, which was damaged by the powerful blast, Encinas and the two military officers said.
“They saw that first suspect but he still managed to detonate the IED he was carrying,” Encinas told reporters, referring to an improvised explosive device or homemade bomb.
The second militant dashed into the camp but was shot by other soldiers, who went on alert after hearing the first explosion. He yelled “Allahu akbar” or “God is great” before setting off the bomb that he carried, damaging vehicles in a parking lot, one of the military officers said.
The attackers were young, perhaps age 18 to 20, the officer said, adding it was not immediately clear if they were Filipinos or foreigners.
In addition to the three soldiers and two suicide bombers, two villagers were killed at the scene of the attack, army spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.
Battle setbacks have reduced the number of Abu Sayyaf armed fighters to less than 400 but they have remained a national security threat. They were the main suspects in a Jan. 27 bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral during a Mass that killed 23 people in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo.
The cathedral attack by two suspected suicide bombers sparked the military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, some commanders of which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Abu Sayyaf militants have largely thrived on ransom kidnappings and extortion. although defense officials say they may have received foreign funds, including from the Islamic State group, to finance attacks.
After their last known hostage, Dutch birdwatcher Ewold Horn, was killed by his captors during a clash with troops in May, the militants no longer hold any hostages in their jungle bases in Sulu for the first time in years due to constant offensives and tightened security. That caused the militants to become more desperate, military officials said.

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Senate fails to limit Trump war powers amid Iran tensions
By LISA MASCARO and DEB RIECHMANN | Fri, June 28, 2019 04:01 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Political unease over the White House’s tough talk against Iran is reviving questions about President Donald Trump’s ability to order military strikes without approval from Congress.
The Senate fell short Friday, in a 50-40 vote, on an amendment to a sweeping Defense bill that would require congressional support before Trump acts. It didn’t reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage. But lawmakers said the majority showing sent a strong message that Trump cannot continue relying on the nearly two-decade-old war authorizations Congress approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The House is expected to take up the issue next month.
“A congressional vote is a pretty good signal of what our constituents are telling us — that another war in the Middle East would be a disaster right now, we don’t want the president to just do it on a whim,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a co-author of the measure with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
“My gut tells me that the White House is realizing this is deeply unpopular with the American public.”
The effort in the Senate signals discomfort with Trump’s approach to foreign policy. Four Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting the amendment, but it faces steep resistance from the White House and the Pentagon wrote a letter opposing it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it nothing more than another example of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” which he explained as whatever the president’s for “they seem to be against.”
McConnell said putting restrictions on the White House would “hamstring” the president’s ability to respond militarily at a time of escalating tension between the U.S. and Iran.
“They have gratuitously chosen to make him the enemy,” McConnell said. “Rather than work with the president to deter our actual enemy, they have chosen to make him the enemy.”
Trump’s approach to the standoff with Iran and his assertion earlier this week that he doesn’t need congressional approval to engage militarily has only sparked fresh questions and hardened views in Congress.
Trump tweeted last week that the U.S. came within minutes of striking Iran in response to its shooting down of an unmanned U.S. drone until he told the military to stand down. He said he was concerned over an Iranian casualty count estimated at 150.
“We’ve been keeping Congress abreast of what we’re doing … and I think it’s something they appreciate,” Trump told The Hill website. “I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally.”
As the popular Defense bill was making its way through the Senate, Democrats vowed to hold back their support unless McConnell agreed to debate the war powers. The defense bill was roundly approved Thursday on a vote of 86-8.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York assembled his caucus earlier this week. In a series of closed-door meetings he argued that Congress had ceded too much authority to presidents of both parties, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private sessions. Schumer said the amendment would prohibit funds to be used for hostilities with Iran without the OK of Congress.
Schumer also said that the American people are worried that U.S. and Iran are on a dangerous collision course and that even though Trump campaigned on not wanting to get the U.S. embroiled in wars he “may bumble us into one.”
“It is high time that Congress re-establishes itself as this nation’s decider of war and peace,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
To counter the Democrats’ effort, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah pushed forward an alternative to Udall’s amendment that reaffirmed the U.S. can defend itself and respond to any attacks. But Romney said his version is not an authorization to use force against Iran.
“I fully concur with my Senate colleagues who desire to reassert out constitutional role,” Romney said on the Senate floor. But he warned that the Udall amendment goes too far. “The president should not have his hands tied.”
The debate over whether the legislative or executive branch has sole power over war-making depends on how one interprets the Constitution, experts said.
In recent years, the U.S. military has been deployed under old war authorizations passed in 2001 and 2002 for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some lawmakers have pushed to pass new war powers acts, but none have materialized, though the House last week voted to sunset those authorizations.
In ticking off a list of Iranian acts of “unprovoked aggression,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently asserted that a late May car bombing of a U.S. convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, was among a series of threats or attacks by Iran and its proxies against American and allies interests. At the time, the Taliban claimed credit for the attack, with no public word of Iranian involvement.
Pompeo’s inclusion of the Afghanistan attack in his list of six Iranian incidents raised eyebrows in Congress. Pompeo and other administration officials have suggested that they would be legally justified in taking military action against Iran under the 2001 authorization.
That law gave President George W. Bush authority to retaliate against al-Qaida and the Taliban for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has subsequently been used to allow military force against extremists elsewhere, from the Philippines to Syria.
The Senate amendment addressed the question about how much Congress can restrict the president, said Scott R. Anderson, a legal expert at Brookings Institution.
“If they actually pass it, it would be very substantive because it would be putting limits on the president that have never been there before,” Anderson said.
Even though the measure failed to reach the 60 votes needed, the House will likely try to attach its own limits on military action in Iran with its Defense bill next month.

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Kevin Durant will not rush his free agency decision – Woj | 2019 NBA Free Agency | SC with SVP

(Adrian Wojnarowski joins Scott Van Pelt to provide the latest news on Kevin Durant, who will meet with the Golden State Warriors, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers. Woj adds that Durant is in no rush to make a decision on his future and adds that there is a real possibility of Durant teaming up with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers.

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Kawhi Leonard wants Magic Johnson in Lakers meeting, but NBA won’t let it happen | SportsCenter

Stephen A. Smith joins SportsCenter to discuss the latest with Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Lakers, with Kawhi having requested that Magic Johnson be in the meeting with the team, but the NBA declining that request. Kawhi is “seriously” considering joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis, along with going to the LA Clippers or staying with the Toronto Raptors.

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US military says 2 service members killed in Afghanistan
By RAHIM FAIEZ | Wed, June 26, 2019 01:20 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military said two of its service members were killed on Wednesday in Afghanistan, but did not offer any details surrounding the circumstances of their deaths.
The killings occurred a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul where he said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal before Sept. 1.
It’s not clear if the deaths were the result of the war, which at nearly 18 years is America’s longest running. More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in October 2001 to oust the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s protracted war accelerated last year with the appointment of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who will begin a fresh round of direct talks with the Taliban on Saturday in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office.
Khalilzad has held a series of meetings in Kabul as well, in an effort to restart Afghan-to-Afghan of talks that would also include the Taliban. Such a planned meeting was scuttled earlier this year because neither side could agree on participants.
The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a U.S. puppet, but have said they would talk with government officials if they arrive at the meeting as ordinary Afghans.
Before leaving Afghanistan for India, Pompeo on Tuesday underscored Khalilzad’s strategy in the talks, which involves four interconnected issues: counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, inter-Afghan dialogue and a permanent cease-fire.
Wednesday’s U.S. military statement announcing the killings of the U.S. service members was a terse, two-paragraph announcement. The statement also said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified.
Talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban have focused on U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal and guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not again become a safe haven for terrorists to plan global attack like 9/11. Pompeo said the United States and the Taliban were close to a deal on countering terrorism.
Pompeo added that discussions with the Taliban have also begun on U.S. troop withdrawal.
“While we’ve made clear to the Taliban that were prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we’ve not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” Pompeo said.
___
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Opposition leader: Ethiopia, AU join forces in Sudan efforts
HUSSEIN MALLA and SAMY MAGDY | Wed, June 26, 2019 11:47 EDT
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A leading Sudanese opposition figure said on Wednesday the African Union and Ethiopia will present a new and joint proposal for a solution to the crisis in Sudan, as they renew efforts to bring the ruling generals and protest leaders back to the negotiating table.
In recent weeks, Ethiopia and the AU have been mediating between the military council and the pro-democracy movement demanding civilian rule. Talks collapsed when Sudanese security forces cleared a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. The deadly clampdown killed at least 128 people cross the county, according to protest organizers.
Protest leaders, represented by the coalition Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, said over the weekend they had accepted the Ethiopian proposal for a power-sharing agreement.
The military council, however, refused to agree, saying that the initiative was to pave the way for resuming talks with the FDFC, “not to offer proposals for solutions.”
It asked Ethiopia to present a joint proposal with the AU, which it said had handed the military a separate transition plan.
The leading opposition figure Sadek al-Mahdi told reporters that Ethiopia and the AU were now planning a joint proposal to be presented later on Wednesday.
A former prime minister, Al-Mahdi’s Umma Party is the country’s largest political party, and part of the FDFC coalition.
The proposal would tackle the main points behind the current impasse, he said. These include the setup of a temporary legislative body. The FDFC has asked for a majority of seats.
“Some have complained that the 67 percent (of seats) for the FDFC means excluding us,” al-Mahdi said. “The mediation will review the shares.”
In earlier rounds of talks, the military council and the protest leaders had agreed on an interim legislative body, with 67 percent of seats for the FDFC, which would have a veto over the appointment of the remaining seats. They also had agreed on a protester-appointed Cabinet.
The two sides had not reached agreement on the extent of the military’s role in the planned sovereign council, which would lead the country during the three-year transition period, when security forces launched the deadly clampdown on June 3.
After the dispersal of the sit-in, the military council cancelled all previous deals. It also threatened to form an interim government without consulting protest leaders.
It remains to be seen whether the African-led mediation will restore the previous deals, a condition for talks with the military that protest leaders have insisted on.
Al-Mahdi also criticized the protesters over calls for mass demonstrations next week to pressure the military council to hand over power.
The demonstrations are planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989 — and toppled Sudan’s last elected government which was led by al-Mahdi.

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Lebanese town bans Muslims from buying, renting property
By BASSEM MROUE 05:27 EDT
BEIRUT (AP) — Mohammed Awwad and his fiancee, both Muslims, recently found an affordable apartment for rent online in a town in Lebanon, southeast of Beirut.
The 27-year-old journalist called the number and asked the owner when they could drop by to take a look. He was stunned by her response: Muslims are not allowed to settle in the town, she said.
The apartment owner apologized to Awwad, saying she wouldn’t mind renting to people of any sect but officials in the town of Hadat issued orders years ago that only Christians be allowed to buy and rent property from the town’s Christian residents.
The young Shiite Muslim man could not believe what he heard and asked his fiancee, Sarah Raad, to call the municipality and she, too, was told that the ban had been in place for years.
Hadat is a small example of Lebanon’s deeply rooted sectarian divisions that once led to a 15-year civil war that left more than 100,000 people dead. Christian communities feel under siege as Muslims, who tend to have higher birth rates, leave overcrowded areas for once predominantly Christian neighborhoods.
“There are people who live in fear and feel threatened and this can be removed through (state) policies that make citizens equal,” said Pierre Abi Saab, a Lebanese journalist and critic.
Three decades ago Hadat was almost entirely Christian, but today it has a Muslim majority because the Muslim population expanded greatly between 1990, when the war ended, and 2010, when the ban was imposed. Since then, the Muslim population has hovered between 60% and 65%.
The ban only applies to Christian property — a Muslim resident or landowner of Hadat is allowed to sell or rent his property to Muslims from outside the town or to whomever he wants.
Hadat is the only area where such a ban is publicly announced. Local officials in Christian areas in central, eastern and southern Lebanon impose such bans in more discreet ways. In the predominantly Christian southern region of Jezzine, some local officials have changed the status of land in their villages from commercial to agricultural in order to prevent mass construction projects while in other villages and towns only locals are allowed to buy property.
“As a Lebanese citizen I don’t see that there is justification for fear and mixing with others is our salvation in Lebanon,” said Abi Saab, deputy editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper. He said it’s unacceptable that Lebanese citizens cannot live wherever they want in the country.
Hadat is on the edge of an area known as Dahiyeh, Beirut’s heavily populated Shiite southern suburbs that is a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group. Hadat, along with other nearby areas, saw tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims move in over the years, raising fears among some of the country’s Christians.
Lebanon, a country of about 5 million, has a very delicate sectarian balance between its 18 religious sects. The last census was conducted in Lebanon in 1932, during which Christians were the majority but over the decades their numbers have been declining because of slower birth rates and more immigration. Today, Christians make up nearly a third of the population, while the two other thirds are almost equally split between Shiites and Sunnis.
“When he says Muslims are not allowed to rent property he means that he does not want to see Muslims,” Awwad said, referring to Hadat Mayor George Aoun.
Lebanon’s Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan denounced the town’s policy as unconstitutional.
Aoun strongly defended his decision, noting it was made in 2010, shortly after he was elected to the post. He said at the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990, Hadat was a purely Christian town but by 2010, tens of thousands of Muslims, many of them Shiites from Dahiyeh, moved in.
“We are telling every Christian to be proud of his or her village. Live here, work here and raise your children here. We are an exemplary village for coexistence,” he said. Asked whether his decision violates the constitution, which allows any Lebanese citizen to settle and own property anywhere in Lebanon, Aoun denied it, saying the proof is that Hadat is 60% Muslim.
“Every village should preserve itself. Every Shiite village should preserve its Shiite nature, every Christian village should preserve its Christian nature and every Sunni village should preserve its Sunni nature. We want to preserve our village or what remains of it,” Aoun said in an interview in his office, which is decorated with a giant framed map of Hadat.
The mayor has received a barrage of criticism recently on social media and on local TV stations that describe his decision as “racist and discriminatory.”
In response, hundreds of supporters marched in Hadat supporting the mayor’s decision over the weekend. Aoun told the crowd that he will commit to the ban until “doomsday.”
Christians once dominated Lebanon’s politics until the 1989 Taif agreement, named after the Saudi city of Taif where it was signed, that ended the 1975-90 civil war. The agreement divided Cabinet and parliament seats as well as senior government jobs, equally between Muslims and Christians. The agreement also removed powers from the Christian president and gave them to the Sunni Muslim prime minister.
According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system since independence from France in 1943, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite.
Hadat’s municipality is dominated by members of President Michel Aoun’s ultranationalist Free Patriotic Movement, which has been leading a campaign against Syrian refugees in the country calling for their return to safe areas in war-torn Syria.
Two years ago, Hadat’s municipality banned Syrians from working in the town, becoming one of the first areas to do so in Lebanon. Walking through the streets of Hadat, no Syrians can be seen unlike in other parts of Lebanon and shop owners boast that they only hire Lebanese.
Hadat resident George Asmar invited a reporter into his clothes shop near a church and proudly pointed to a woman who works for him, saying “she is one of our Shiite sisters.” But Asmar said he supported the mayor because the ban on Muslims owning or renting property in the town is preserving the town’s identity.
“The decision of the municipality is very good because we want to keep our sons in Hadat,” Asmar said. “It is good to keep our sons, to live with us rather than travel.”

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Saudi envoy blasts UN expert’s report on Khashoggi killing
By JAMEY KEATEN | Wed, June 26, 2019 12:29 EDT
GENEVA (AP) — A top Saudi diplomat lashed out Tuesday at an independent U.N. expert’s searing report alleging that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it was based on “prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas.”
In what amounted to a face-off at the U.N’s top human rights body, Ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil insisted that special rapporteur Agnes Callamard had failed to follow proper procedures and used flawed sourcing in her 101-page report made public last week.
“Accusations have been launched, and fingers have been pointed — (she is) supporting herself on non-credible articles or sources,” he told the Human Rights Council, in Arabic through a U.N. interpreter.
Callamard, sitting at the council podium to present her report, retorted that her methodology had respected precedent and insisted her report wasn’t based on media reports. She also said she hadn’t received any responses in writing from Saudi authorities to her report.
The report by Callamard, an independent expert on extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, alleged that Saudi Arabia bears responsibility for The Washington Post columnist’s grisly apparent dismemberment by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October. It said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible role in the killing should be examined, and Callamard used Tuesday’s presentation to push for further investigation.
She also wrote that Saudi Arabia, which has put 11 people on trial in non-public proceedings, shouldn’t be allowed to mete out justice alone in a case with vast international implications — and called for a “proper authority” to determine if crimes had been committed.
Callamard said the Saudi trial should be suspended because it fails to meet procedural standards.
The Saudi ambassador rejected that.
“This is something that is set against Saudi Arabia, it’s based on prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas,” he said. “This is why we reject any attempt to remove this from our national justice system in Saudi Arabia.”
Among diplomats speaking out Tuesday, European Union ambassador Walter Stevens called on Saudi Arabia “to disclose all information available,” and “fully cooperate” with investigations into the killing, and Ralf Schroeder of Germany said “nothing can justify this killing, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
Russia’s representative, Yaroslav Eremin, questioned the focus on journalists, dissenters and others, wondering aloud if the lives of regular citizens were “less valuable.” Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri of Bahrain rallied to the defense of its big Arab neighbor, insisting Saudi Arabia had shown “full transparency from the outset.”
The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the council a year, alleging it has an anti-Israeli bias among other complaints.
Her voice trembling in English, Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz, intervening on invitation by a non-governmental organization, told the council that “those who are behind the murder and cover-up should face punishment.”
“It was not only my beloved Jamal who was murdered that day, but also democracy, human rights and freedoms,” she said.

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Judge accused of aiding wanted immigrant wants pay restored
By ALANNA DURKIN RICHER 01:25 EDT
BOSTON (AP) — A judge charged with helping an immigrant escape a federal agent waiting to arrest him at a courthouse should keep her salary while she fights to clear her in name, one of her lawyers told Massachusetts’ highest court Wednesday.
Stripping Judge Shelley Joseph of her pay as soon as she was charged goes against the presumption of innocence and sends the message to judges across the state that their livelihood could be taken away merely because of an allegation, attorney Michael Keating said.
“As a judge, she’s charged with giving everyone who appears before her due process of law,” Keating told the Supreme Judicial Court. “I think she is entitled to due process of law before this panel.”
Joseph was suspended without pay in April after federal prosecutors alleged she and a former court officer helped a man from the Dominican Republic slip out a back door of Newton District Court.
She has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice, and another of her lawyers, Thomas Hoopes, has called the case against her “political.”
Joseph, who made $181,000 last year, said in an affidavit filed with the Supreme Judicial Court that her family faces mounting legal bills, has had to borrow money from friends and family, and may be forced to sell its home.
Her pay should be restored, and she should be allowed to work on administrative tasks for the court system while the case plays out, her lawyers say.
Lawyers’ groups and a collection of retired judges are backing Joseph, calling it “unprecedented” to take away the pay of a judge who hasn’t been found guilty of wrongdoing.
“Judges must be able to act without fearing for their livelihood or the well-being of their family if a powerful litigant, the public, or other judges disagree with their actions,” the Massachusetts Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys said in court documents.
But several of the justices questioned how it would be fair to allow judges to keep their salary when other court officials — like a clerk or probation officer — would lose theirs under court policy if they are criminally charged.
“What do we say to that probation officer or that court officer or that clerk?” asked Chief Justice Ralph Gants.
____
Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkinricher

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Doctors Now Want More People to Get the HPV Vaccine

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Good news if you’re an adult who hasn’t gotten the HPV vaccine yet: A government advisory panel recently voted to recommend the vaccine for men up to age 26 ( previously it was recommended for women up to 26, and men up to 21) with a “weak endorsement” for pe…

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Trump Responds To Shanahan’s Withdrawal, Esper’s Nomination For Secretary Of Defense | NBC News NBC News As Trump’s defense pick withdraws, he addresses violent domestic incidents The Washington Post Trump: Patrick Shanahan out of confirmation process to be d…

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Pompeo meets Indian leaders amid trade tensions, Iran crisis
By AIJAZ HUSSAIN 11:22 EDT
NEW DELHI (AP) — The U.S. secretary of state and his Indian counterpart downplayed growing disagreements over trade and tariffs on Wednesday, arguing that the two countries can work through their issues.
Mike Pompeo held meetings in India’s capital with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and later with foreign minister S. Jaishankar amid growing tensions over trade that have strained bilateral ties.
Pompeo acknowledged that the two countries have some differences.
“Great friends are bound to have disagreements,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting with Jaishankar. “The United States has been clear we seek greater market access and the removal of trade barriers.”
Jaishankar said there was a “need to filter through the noise and get down to the basics of the relationship.”
Pompeo arrived in New Delhi late Tuesday after visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan on a trip aimed at building a global coalition to counter Iran.
His visit is the first by a high-level U.S. official since Modi’s reelection last month. The countries call each other strategic partners despite retaliatory tariffs they imposed on some goods this month.
India imposed tariffs on 28 American products including walnuts and almonds on June 16 in retaliation for the U.S. ending India’s preferential trade status on June 1. The Trump administration imposed higher duties on Indian products including aluminum and steel.
Another irritant in their relationship is India’s plan to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense system. U.S. has shown reservations about the deal. But still the U.S. has become India’s top defense supplier in the last two years. India’s trade with the U.S. has also seen steady growth and is currently about $150 billion annually.
Jaishankar said the two discussed defense cooperation and that India would be guided by its national interests.
Pompeo’s visit comes ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan later this week.
Indian officials say they have few differences with the U.S. over political and strategic issues including on Iran, but have cautioned the two countries need to be careful on trade and commerce.
India stopped oil purchases from Iran after a U.S. sanctions waiver ran out in May, but Indian officials have continued working for a renewal of the waiver amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Indian officials say they understand the U.S. concerns regarding Iran, but their country has taken an economic hit.
Jaishankar said global energy supplies should remain stable, predictable and affordable. “I think that’s a concern to which Secretary Pompeo was certainly very, very receptive. I think he understands that this is today the world’s fifth largest economy, which imports 85% of its energy, a large part of it from the Gulf. So I think he certainly gets … what our interests are,” he said.
Pompeo said the two leaders didn’t discuss a lifting of waivers but they agreed to work through the problems.
He said later Wednesday that the U.S. appreciated India’s efforts in cutting of oil from Iran, and “we’re doing everything we can to ensure you’ve adequate crude imports.”
On Iran, Pompeo repeated that Tehran “is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror” and that the Strait of Hormuz needs to be kept open.
“There’s a shared understanding of threat and a common purpose to ensure that we can keep that energy at the right prices, and deter this threat, not only the threat in the narrow confines of the Middle East, but the threat that this terror regime poses to the entire world,” he said.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Pompeo and Modi exchanged “views on various aspects of the Indo-U.S. relationship.”
“Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership,” Kumar tweeted.
Before Pompeo’s arrival in India, hundreds of supporters of left-wing groups marched in central New Delhi to protest his visit and denounce American policies in the Middle East. They urged the Indian government not to cut off imports of oil from Iran, as the U.S. has demanded.
Pran Sharma, a protester, said there was a “bigger game” behind “the trade war” between India and the U.S.
“That is the invasion of Iran, for which it (the U.S.) is making preparations. How it can get cooperation from India?” he said.
___
Follow Aijaz Hussain on Twitter at twitter.com/hussain_aijaz

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Social Democrats in Denmark get support to form new govt
By JAN M. OLSEN | Wed, June 26, 2019 05:43 EDT
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Three left-wing parties in Denmark are backing the center-left Social Democrats to form a one-party minority government.
The deal would make the Social Democrats’ leader, 41-year-old Mette Frederiksen, the country’s youngest prime minister after the left-leaning party won the June 5 election.
The Social Democrats won by embracing restrictive immigration policies, a pragmatic tactic that involved returning to the party’s anti-migrant roots after two decades of relatively more liberal policies. Denmark’s largest party had been in the opposition for the past four years.
Despite differences over welfare and immigration, the left-leaning parties want to back Frederiksen, who is expected to form a government in the next few days. Minority Cabinets are common in Denmark.
Frederiksen admitted it would be a “tough and difficult task.”
“These are four very different parties, and no doubt parties with major disagreements on several political issues,” she said late Tuesday after 21 days of talks with the Social People’s Party, the Red Green Unity List and the centrist Social Liberals.
Frederiksen said the deal identified several goals, including promoting integration in Denmark and reversing the previous government’s decision not to accept any refugees under a U.N. quota system.
The U.N. refugee agency has made deals with countries, including Denmark, to take in refugees. Since 1989, Denmark has accepted about 500 such refugees every year.
The government also wants to fight plastic pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% ahead of 2030, a goal praised by Greenpeace.
The four Danish parties also agreed to drop plans to put rejected asylum-seekers and foreigners convicted of crimes on a tiny island that formerly housed facilities for researching contagious animal diseases. They also would reverse some austerity measures in health care and education.
Inger Stoejberg, the outgoing immigration minister known for being a hardliner, criticized the Social Democrats for striking a deal that compromised their self-declared tough immigration stance. They had promised “a strict immigration policy” but “one can’t trust” them, she said.
The June 5 elections for Denmark’s 179-seat Folketing, or Parliament, dealt a blow to the populist, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which had been supporting Denmark’s center-right prime minister, who resigned. Former Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen failed to keep a majority in parliament after his allies saw their vote share plunge to 8.7% in the June election from 21.1% in 2015.

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Trump: China needs to reach a trade deal more than he does
By PAUL WISEMAN | Wed, June 26, 2019 06:05 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s under little pressure to reach a trade deal with China when he meets late this week with President Xi Jinping and is prepared to impose further tariffs on Chinese imports.
“The Chinese economy’s going down the tubes,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “They want to make a deal more than I do.”
The president has threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports — on top of the $250 billion in goods he’s already taxed — a move that would extend his import taxes to virtually everything China ships to the United States. He says the new tariffs might start at 10%. Earlier, the administration had said additional tariffs might reach 25%.
The two countries are sparring over the Trump administration’s allegations that Beijing steals technology and coerces foreign companies into handing over trade secrets. Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet at the Group of 20 leaders’ meeting Friday and Saturday in Osaka, Japan.
Speaking to reporters at a lunch in New York, former Chinese diplomat Zhao Weiping disputed U.S. complaints about Chinese technology policy, suggesting the trade war was meant to hobble a rising competitor. “We think the fundamental purpose is to check the development of China,” said Zhao, vice president of the Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs.
He later added, “Nobody will win the trade war. It’s just a question of which side will lose more.”
Also Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross struck a somewhat more conciliatory note.
“We’re not looking for a victory,” Ross said in a separate interview with Fox Business Network. “What we’re looking for is a sensible deal that addresses the legitimate issues that we have. This is not a thing where one (country) is going to be pinned to the floor and knocked out.”
A meaningful agreement, Ross said, would involve persuading Beijing to curb abusive tech policies, buy more American products, narrow the U.S. trade deficit with China (a record $381 billion last year) and, “hardest of all,” devising ways to make sure Beijing lives up to its commitments.
Zhao said the Americans are being unrealistic about just how much China can do to reduce the trade imbalance. “The U.S. has asked us to purchase more than we can buy,” he said.
Later, Zhao said, “The U.S. side should not be too ambitious. You have to be realistic.”
In his interview, Trump also suggested that he may have identified a new trade adversary: Vietnam. Asked about reports that Chinese products were being diverted to Vietnam to avoid his tariffs on goods from China, Trump asserted that “Vietnam takes advantage of us even worse than China.”
Asked whether he was planning to impose tariffs on Vietnamese products, the president said his administration was “in discussions” with Vietnam.
___
Darlene Superville and Deb Riechmann in Washington and Brad Foss in New York contributed to this story.

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Pickup driver pleads not guilty in fatal motorcycle crash
By MICHAEL CASEY | Tue, June 25, 2019 02:41 EDT
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A driver for a transport company who has a history of traffic arrests pleaded not guilty Tuesday to seven counts of negligent homicide in a collision with a group of motorcyclists on a rural highway.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, was ordered to remain in preventive detention, with a judge saying his driving record poses a potential danger to the public and himself.
The plea was entered by Zhukovskyy’s attorney Melissa Davis in Coos County Court in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Zhukovskyy remains behind bars there. Davis didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
The Dodge pickup Zhukovskyy was driving was towing a flatbed trailer and collided with the motorcycles in Randolph early Friday evening, investigators say. He was driving erratically and crossed the center line, according to criminal complaints released Tuesday.
A survivor of the crash said the trailer wiped out most of the bikers behind him.
Zhukovskyy was arrested Monday morning at his home in Massachusetts and handed over to New Hampshire authorities after a court appearance that day.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 8, with the trial running through December.
Connecticut prosecutors say Zhukovskyy was arrested May 11 in a Walmart parking lot in East Windsor Walmart after failing a sobriety test. Zhukovskyy’s lawyer in that case, John O’Brien, said he denies being intoxicated and will fight the charge.
Additionally, Zhukovskyy was arrested on a drunken driving charge in 2013 in Westfield, Massachusetts, state records show. He was placed on probation for one year and had his license suspended for 210 days, The Westfield News reported.
Zhukovskyy’s father, who goes by the same name, told the Boston Herald that his son is a Ukrainian national and has permanent resident status in the U.S. The younger Zhukovskyy’s court file includes a letter dated Sunday from a deportation officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting details on his 2017 heroin and cocaine convictions.
Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that the company Zhukovskyy was driving for at the time of the motorcycle crash, Westfield Transport, has been cited for various violations in the past two years, MassLive.com reported.
Phones rang unanswered at the company. The owner has previously said he was cooperating with the investigation.
The crash victims were members or supporters of the Marine JarHeads, a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses and ranged in age from 42 to 62. Four were from New Hampshire, two from Massachusetts and one from Rhode Island.
JarHeads president Manny Ribeiro, who survived the crash, said he just remembers an “explosion” and the trailer from the truck wiping out most of the bikers behind him. The crash would not have been so deadly, he said, if not for the trailer.
After the crash, Ribeiro recalled seeing Zhukovskyy “screaming and running around” in the road before authorities arrived and took him away.
The dead were identified as Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Albert Mazza Jr., 59, of Lee, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, New Hampshire; Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts.

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Experts fear ‘snowball effect’ as Iran abandons nuclear deal
By JON GAMBRELL 07:00 EDT
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — As Iran prepares to surpass limits set by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, each step it takes narrows the time the country’s leaders would need to have enough highly enriched uranium for an atomic bomb — if they chose to build one.
The United Nations says Iran has so far respected the deal’s terms. But by Thursday, Iran says it will have over 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium in its possession, which would mean it had broken out of the atomic accord.
European countries that are still a part of the nuclear accord face a July 7 deadline imposed by Tehran to offer a better deal and long-promised relief from U.S. sanctions, or Iran will also begin enriching its uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.
Breaking the stockpile limit by itself doesn’t radically change the one year experts say Iran would need to have enough material for a bomb. Coupled with increasing enrichment, however, it begins to close that window and hamper any diplomatic efforts at saving the accord.
“I worry about the snowball effect,” said Corey Hinderstein, a vice president at the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative who once led the U.S. Energy Department’s Iran task force. “Iran now takes a step which puts Europe and the other members of the deal in an even-tougher position.”
Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to have less than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched to a maximum of 3.67%. Previously, Iran enriched as high as 20%, which is a short technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels. It also held up to 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of the higher-enriched uranium.
Experts who spoke to The Associated Press described the enrichment and stockpile limits in the deal as a sort of sliding scale. Balancing both elements keeps Iran a year away from having enough material for a nuclear weapon, something Iran denies it seeks despite Western concerns about its program.
At the time of the deal, which was agreed to by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain, experts believed Iran needed anywhere from several weeks to three months to have enough material for a bomb.
However, the stockpile limit isn’t an immediate worry from a nonproliferation standpoint, experts say.
“Going over the limit doesn’t immediately signify that Iran has enough material that could — if further enriched and processed — be used in a nuclear weapon,” said Tom Plant, the director of proliferation and nuclear policy at London’s Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.
“It does mean that it builds up reserves of material that could in the future support a more rapid push to the higher levels of enrichment that are suitable for weapons use,” Plant said.
The danger comes July 7, if Iran begins enriching uranium to higher levels.
“If Iran begins stockpiling uranium enriched to higher levels, the breakout timeline would decrease more quickly,” said Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Both Davenport and Ian Stewart, a professor at King’s College London who runs its antiproliferation studies program called Project Alpha, worry about miscalculations from Iran, the U.S. or the West amid the brinksmanship.
“This highlights the real tension at play in Iran: doing enough to satisfy Iranian hard-liners while also maintaining EU, Chinese and Russian support” for the deal, Stewart said. “There’s a real risk of miscalculating, not least because it’s not clear at which point the EU will have to back away from a noncompliant Iran.”
Davenport says Iran’s moves probably are aimed at gaining leverage in negotiations.
“Even if Iran decided to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would still take months to further enrich and weaponize the uranium,” she said. “It is critical that the United States does not overreact to a stockpile breach and use it as an excuse to further ratchet up tensions in the region.”
A year after President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iran are already locked in a volatile standoff. Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone, saying it violated Iranian airspace, though Washington said it was above international waters. The U.S. has blamed Iran for mysterious explosions targeting oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran denied any involvement.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Israel has bombed nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria in the past, and reportedly pushed for a similar strike in Iran prior to the 2015 deal.
Iran, for now, allows U.N. inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities via in-person checks and surveillance cameras. It also has yet to begin widespread use of advanced centrifuges that would speed its enrichment. Experts fear either of those happening.
Once Iran starts going beyond the terms of the nuclear deal, one fact remains indisputable: the time it needs to have enough material for a possible atomic bomb starts dropping.
“As soon as they go over 300 or above 3.67, that number is starting to count down from one year,” Hinderstein warned. “So if they do both, then it’s just going to steepen that line from one year to wherever they end up.”
___
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

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Apple Music surpasses 60 million subscribers

Apple Music surpasses 60 million subscribers

Today’s major Apple news may be the departure of its design guru Jony Ive, but the even as the company stomachs the executive loss, their software plows ahead. Today, in an interview with French news site Numerama, Apple honcho Eddy Cue revealed that the numb…

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