Mueller report release spirals into political gamesmanship
WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight from Robert Mueller— but not before President Donald Trump’s attorney general has his say.
The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to release a redacted version of the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference and Trump’s campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country.
Even the planned release of the nearly 400-page report quickly spiraled into a political battle Wednesday over whether Attorney General William Barr is attempting to shield the president who appointed him and spin the report’s findings before the American people can read it and come to their own judgments.
Barr will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to present his interpretation of the report’s findings, before providing redacted copies to Congress and the public. The news conference, first announced by Trump during a radio interview, provoked immediate criticism from congressional Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect” Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The process is poisoned before the report is even released.”
North Korea says it test-fired new tactical guided weapon
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Thursday that it had test-fired a new type of “tactical guided weapon,” its first such test in nearly half a year, and a possible sign of its displeasure with deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.
The test, which didn’t appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle negotiations, allows Pyongyang to show its people it is pushing ahead with weapons development while also reassuring domestic military officials worried that diplomacy with Washington signals weakness.
The North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, observed the unspecified weapon being fired Wednesday by the Academy of Defense Science, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim was reported to have said “the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The Associated Press could not independently verify North Korea’s claim, and it wasn’t immediately clear what had been tested. A ballistic missile test would jeopardize the diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for disarmament. A South Korean analyst said that details in the North’s media report indicate it could have been a new type of cruise missile. Another possible clue: one of the lower level officials mentioned in the North’s report on the test — Pak Jong Chon — is known as an artillery official.
The test comes during an apparent deadlock in nuclear disarmament talks after the failed summit in Hanoi between Kim and President Donald Trump earlier this year. Some in Seoul worry that the North will turn back to actions seen as provocative by outsiders as a way to force Washington to drop its hardline negotiating stance and grant the North’s demand for a removal of crushing international sanctions. A string of increasingly powerful weapons tests in 2017 and Trump’s response of “fire and fury” had many fearing war before the North shifted to diplomacy.
Florida teenager obsessed with Columbine takes her own life
LITTLETON, Colo. — A Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and may have been planning an attack in Colorado just ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.
The body of 18-year-old high schooler Sol Pais was discovered in the mountains outside Denver with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after investigators got a tip from the driver who took her there, the FBI said.
During the manhunt, Denver-area schools closed as a precaution, with classes and extracurricular activities canceled for a half-million students.
Police and the FBI were tipped off about Pais after the Miami Beach high school student made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the 1999 bloodbath at Columbine High and this weekend’s anniversary of the 13 killings, said Dean Phillips, FBI agent in charge in Denver. He did not elaborate on what she said.
Pais purchased three one-way tickets to Denver on three consecutive days, then flew in on Monday night and went directly to a gun store, where she bought a shotgun, authorities said.
Bells of French cathedrals ring in tribute to Notre Dame
PARIS — Bells of cathedrals across France rang in a moving tribute Wednesday to Notre Dame as firefighters and experts continued to keep the beloved but weakened landmark under close surveillance.
From Sacre Coeur in Paris to the cities of Strasbourg in the east and Rouen in the west, the architectural treasures of France solemnly marked the inferno, two days after it ravaged the gothic cathedral, widely regarded as the soul of France.
“I just arrived for the first ring of the bells and immediately there was an emotion. Incredible, indescribable, I just can’t explain it,” said Nadia Pascassio-Comte, in Strasbourg. “It was beautiful and sad at the same time. I had tears in my eyes at one point, and I think that this solidarity is magical, it really unites a lot of people.”
At Saint Sulpice church, the second-largest house of worship in Paris, French first lady Brigitte Macron attended a special service for the annual blessing of the oils during Holy Week, ahead of Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile, restoration specialists questioned President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious five-year reconstruction timeline for Notre Dame, with some suggesting it could take more than three times that amount of time to rebuild the 850-year-old architectural treasure.
APNewsBreak: Ivanka Trump says she passed on World Bank job
ABIDJIAN, Ivory Coast — White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump says her father asked her if she was interested in the job of World Bank chief but she passed on it.
In an Associated Press interview, President Donald Trump’s daughter said Wednesday she was happy with her current role in the administration. She was traveling in Africa to promote a global women’s initiative.
Ivanka Trump said her father raised the job as “a question” and she told him she was “happy with the work” she’s doing.
The president recently told The Atlantic: “I even thought of Ivanka for the World Bank. . She would’ve been great at that because she’s very good with numbers.”
Ivanka Trump worked on the selection process for the new head of the 189-nation World Bank, David Malpass. She said he’ll do an “incredible job.”
Bus carrying Germans crashes, kills 29 on Portugal’s Madeira
LISBON, Portugal — A tour bus carrying German tourists crashed on Portugal’s Madeira Island on Wednesday, killing 29 people and injuring 28 others, local authorities said.
The bus, which was carrying 55 people, rolled down a steep hillside after veering off the road on a bend east of the capital, Funchal, and struck at least one house, local mayor Filipe Sousa told cable news channel SIC.
Local television showed bodies scattered over a rural hillside next to the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira, off northwestern Africa, is a popular vacation destination for Europeans due to its mild climate and lush, hilly landscape.
The dead included 18 women and 11 men, one of whom died later at a hospital, Sousa told public broadcaster RTP.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said preliminary reports he had received indicated all the dead were German. But Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said not all the victims had been identified and refused to confirm the nationality of the dead.
Trump cracks down on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The Trump administration on Wednesday intensified its crackdown on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, rolling back Obama administration policy and announcing new restrictions and sanctions against the three countries whose leaders national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the “three stooges of socialism.”
“The troika of tyranny — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — is beginning to crumble,” Bolton said in a hard-hitting speech near Miami on the 58th anniversary of the United States’ failed Bay of Pigs invasion of the island, an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.
The measures seem likely to hit hardest in Cuba, which is at a moment of severe economic weakness as it struggles to find cash to import basic food and other supplies following a drop in aid from Venezuela and a string of bad years in other key economic sectors.
Bolton announced a new cap on the amount of money that families in the United States can send their relatives in Cuba. The Obama administration had lifted limits on remittances, but the new limit will be $1,000 per person per quarter. Remittances to Cuba from the United States amounted to $3 billion in 2016, according to the State Department.
Washington also moved to restrict “non-family travel” after a broad loosening of so-called purposeful visits under Obama led to soaring numbers of American trips for cultural and educational exchanges. Details on the restrictions were not immediately clear, but tourism is a key lifeline of hard currency for Cuba. Bolton called such visits “veiled tourism.”
60 people charged in illegal prescription opioid crackdown
CINCINNATI — Federal authorities said Wednesday they have charged 60 people, including a doctor accused of trading drugs for sex and another of prescribing to his Facebook friends, for their roles in illegally prescribing and distributing millions of pills containing opioids and other drugs.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of Cincinnati described the action, with 31 doctors facing charges, as the biggest known takedown yet of drug prescribers. Robert Duncan, U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky, called the doctors involved “white-coated drug dealers.”
Authorities said the 60 includes 53 medical professionals tied to some 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills. The operation was conducted by the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, launched last year by the Trump administration.
Authorities said arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as they announced the charges at a news conference. They didn’t immediately name those being charged.
U.S. health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. West Virginia and Ohio have regularly been among the states with the highest overdose death rates as the opioid crisis has swelled in recent years.
Scientists spur some activity in brains of slaughtered pigs
NEW YORK — Scientists restored some activity within the brains of pigs that had been slaughtered hours before, raising hopes for some medical advances and questions about the definition of death.
The brains could not think or sense anything, researchers stressed. By medical standards “this is not a living brain,” said Nenad Sestan of the Yale School of Medicine, one of the researchers reporting the results Wednesday in the journal Nature.
But the work revealed a surprising degree of resilience among cells within a brain that has lost its supply of blood and oxygen, he said.
“Cell death in the brain occurs across a longer time window than we previously thought,” Sestan said.
Such research might lead to new therapies for stroke and other conditions, as well as provide a new way to study the brain and how drugs work in it, researchers said. They said they had no current plans to try their technique on human brains.
Gambler sets another 1-day winnings record on ‘Jeopardy!’
LOS ANGELES — A professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has broken his own single-episode winnings record on “Jeopardy!”
James Holzhauer won $131,127 during a show aired Wednesday night, breaking the record that viewers saw him set last week.
Due to the game show’s taping schedule, the records were actually set one day apart, with Holzhauer’s new high score occurring on Feb. 12.
Wednesday’s win marks the 10th consecutive win for the 34-year-old Holzhauer. Before his run, the previous episode record was $77,000 and was set by Roger Craig in 2010.
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, who revealed in March that he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, posted a message Wednesday thanking fans for their well-wishes and said he’s feeling good and continuing with his therapy.
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