Trump still coy on border deal - but claims victory anyway
WASHINGTON — Even before seeing a final deal or agreeing to seal it, President Donald Trump labored on Wednesday to frame the congressional agreement on border security as a political win, never mind that it contains only a fraction of the billions for a “great, powerful wall” that he’s been demanding for months.
Trump is expected to grudgingly accept the agreement, which would avert another government shutdown and give him what Republicans have been describing as a “down payment” on his signature campaign pledge.
He said Wednesday that he’s still waiting on lawmakers to present him with final legislative language before making a decision. But he’s not waiting to declare victory, contending at the White House on Wednesday that a wall “is being built as we speak.”
Indeed, work on a first barrier extension — 14 miles in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley — starts this month, approved by Congress about a year ago along with money to renovate and strengthen some existing fencing. But that’s a far cry from the vast wall he promised during his campaign would “go up so fast your head will spin.”
Sounding like he was again in campaign mode, he told a law enforcement group on Wednesday, “It’s going to be a great, powerful wall. ... The wall is very, very on its way.”
Judge finds Manafort lied to investigators in Russia probe
WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators and a federal grand jury in the special counsel’s Russia probe, a judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision was another loss for Manafort, a once-wealthy political consultant who rose to lead Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and now faces years in prison in two criminal cases brought in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The four-page ruling hurts Manafort’s chance of receiving a reduced sentence, though Jackson said she would decide the exact impact during his sentencing next month. It also resolves a dispute that had provided new insight into how Mueller views Manafort’s actions as part of the broader probe of Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates.
Prosecutors have made clear that they remain deeply interested in Manafort’s interactions with a man the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence. But it’s unclear exactly what has drawn their attention and whether it relates to election interference because much of the dispute has played out in secret court hearings and blacked out court filings.
In her ruling Wednesday, Jackson provided few new details as she found there was sufficient evidence to say Manafort broke the terms of his plea agreement by lying about three of five matters that prosecutors had singled out. The ruling was largely a rejection of Manafort’s attorneys’ argument that he hadn’t intentionally misled investigators but rather forgot some details until his memory was refreshed.
Perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche dead at 96
LEESBURG, Va. — Lyndon LaRouche Jr., the political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison, has died. He was 96.
LaRouche’s political action committee confirmed Wednesday on its website that LaRouche died a day earlier.
The cult-like figure, who espoused a wide range of conspiracy theories and advocated for an overhaul of the world’s economic and financial systems, ran first as a U. S. Labor Party candidate and later, after an apparent shift to the right, as a Democratic or independent candidate.
In 1986, LaRouche described himself as being in the tradition of the American Whig party, a forerunner of the Republican Party in the first half of the 19th century. In 1990, he ran unsuccessfully to represent Virginia in Congress.
His views evolved throughout his life, but a central tenet of his apocalyptic platform warned of an inevitable global downward slide into crisis.
NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the planet.
The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm.
Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact, and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” in a somber exercise that brought tears to team members’ eyes. There was no response from space, only silence.
Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions, broke the news at what amounted to a funeral at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, announcing the demise of “our beloved Opportunity.”
“This is a hard day,” project manager John Callas said at an auditorium packed with hundreds of current and former members of the team that oversaw Opportunity and its long-deceased identical twin, Spirit. “Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point.”
US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets
WASHINGTON — A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran despite warnings from the FBI has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The Justice Department also accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community by feeding details about their personal and professional lives to Iran. Four hackers linked to the Iranian government, charged in the same indictment, used that information to target the intelligence workers online, prosecutors said.
Witt had been on the FBI’s radar at least a year before she defected after she attended an Iranian conference and appeared in anti-American videos. She was warned about her activities, but told agents that she would not provide sensitive information about her work if she returned to Iran, prosecutors say. She was not arrested at the time.
“Once a holder of a top secret security clearance, Monica Witt actively sought opportunities to undermine the United States and support the government of Iran — a country which poses a serious threat to our national security,” said FBI executive assistant director Jay Tabb, the bureau’s top national security official.
Tabb said “she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security,” though he did not provide specifics.
Strangers’ suspicions rankle parents of mixed-race children
PHOENIX — Amberkatherine DeCory carried photos of her daughter’s birth certificate in her diaper bag in case she had to prove that the lighter-skinned girl was really hers. Cydnee Rafferty gives her husband a letter explaining that he has permission to travel with their 5-year-old biracial daughter.
Families like theirs were not surprised when they heard that Cindy McCain had reported a woman to police for possible human trafficking because the widow of Sen. John McCain saw her at the airport with a toddler of a different ethnicity. Officers investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Parents whose children have a different complexion say they regularly face suspicion and the assumption that they must be watching someone else’s kids.
“This is a problem that, to be frank, well-meaning white people get themselves into,” said Rafferty, who is African-American and whose husband is white. “They think, ‘If it doesn’t make sense to me it must not be right.”
After McCain’s report, Rafferty posted to Twitter a selfie of her with her two children, ages 5 and 5 months.
California governor wants users to profit from online data
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set off a flurry of speculation after he said the state’s consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make by capitalizing on personal data they collect.
The new governor has asked aides to develop a proposal for a “data dividend” for California residents but provided no hints about whether he might be suggesting a tax on tech companies, an individual refund to their customers or something else.
“Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it,” the Democrat said in his first State of the State speech Tuesday. “California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”
Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that target ads to users. The European Union and Spain’s socialist government last year each proposed taxing big internet companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Common Sense Media, which helped pass California’s nation-leading digital privacy law last year, plans to propose legislation in coming weeks that would reflect Newsom’s proposal, founder and CEO James Steyer said, without providing details.
Is it love? Maybe not, as romance scams proliferate
Is it love? Maybe not.
The FTC announced this week that romance-related scams have surged recently and generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency last year. The number of these romance scams reported to the agency jumped from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 21,000 in 2018. And the amount lost by victims has quadrupled over that period — reaching $143 million last year. The median reported loss for victims was $2,600, about seven times more than other fraud tracked by the FTC.
Romance scams vary but criminals typically find their victims online, though a dating site or social media. Scammers create a phony profile, often building a believable persona with the help of a photo of someone else and direct communication. They woo the victim, building affection and trust until they see an opportunity to ask for money.
The reason for the request can run the gamut but money to pay for a medical emergency or travel costs for a long-awaited visit are common. Some victims report sending money repeatedly for one false crisis after another, according to the FTC. The money is often wired or given as gift cards, which allow the criminals quick and anonymous access to cash that cannot be easily tracked.
Anyone can be a victim, experts warn. But FTC data found reported romance scams happened most often to those in the 40 to 69 age group. Those 70 and older paid out the most to scammers, with median losses per person of $10,000.
Q&A: Should anyone worry about a $22 trillion national debt?
WASHINGTON — The government surpassed a dubious milestone this week: Its debt topped $22 trillion — that’s trillion, with a “t’’ — for the first time.
Piles of federal debt have been growing ever higher for years, fueled by accumulating annual deficits, which themselves have been driven by tax cuts, government spending increases and the mounting costs of Medicare and Social Security and interest on the debt itself.
Under President Donald Trump, the national debt has topped $20 trillion (September 2017) $21 trillion (March 2018) and now $22 trillion. As a presidential candidate, Trump had assailed the $1 trillion annual deficits under President Barack Obama and had said that as president he could wipe out all the debt. Now, Trump is projecting that his own annual deficits will top $1 trillion for a time.
So just what is the national debt, why does it keep rising and how worried should we be about it? Here are some questions and answers:
Report: 7 women claim singer Ryan Adams was inappropriate
NEW YORK — A New York Times report says seven women have claimed singer-songwriter Ryan Adams offered to help them with their music careers but then turned things sexual, and he sometimes became emotional and verbally abusive.
In the story published Wednesday, a 20-year-old female musician said Adams, 44, had inappropriate conversations with her while she was 15 and 16. Identified by her middle name Ava, she said that Adams exposed himself during a video call.
Adams’ ex-wife, actress and singer Mandy Moore, said Adams was psychologically abusive toward her throughout their marriage. Their divorce was official in 2016.
The Times said the accounts have been corroborated by family members or friends who were present at the time. Adams’ lawyer denied the claims to the Times.
After the article was published, Adams tweeted Wednesday that “I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes.”
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