'All roads lead to Putin': Impeachment ties Ukraine, Russia
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are bringing the impeachment focus back to Russia as they draft formal charges against President Donald Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is connecting the dots — "all roads lead to Putin," she says — and making the argument that Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine was not an isolated incident but part of a troubling bond with the Russian president reaching back to special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on the 2016 election.
"This has been going on for 2 1/2 years," Pelosi said Friday.
"This isn’t about Ukraine," she explained a day earlier. "'It’s about Russia. Who benefited by our withholding of that military assistance? Russia."
The framing is taking on greater urgency and importance, both as a practical matter and a political one, as Democrats move seriously into writing the articles of impeachment.
Saudi student opens fire at Florida Naval base, killing 3
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — An aviation student from Saudi Arabia opened fire in a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing three people in an attack the Saudi government quickly condemned and that U.S. officials were investigating for possible links to terrorism.
The assault, which ended when a sheriff's deputy killed the attacker, was the second fatal shooting at a U.S. Navy base this week and prompted a massive law enforcement response and base lockdown.
Twelve people were hurt in the attack, including the two sheriff's deputies who were the first to respond, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said. One of the deputies was shot in the arm and the other in the knee, and both were expected to recover, he said.
The shooter was a member of the Saudi military who was in aviation training at the base, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. DeSantis spokesman Helen Ferre later said the governor learned about the shooter's identity from briefings with FBI and military officials.
A U.S. official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified the shooter as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The official also said the FBI is examining social media posts and investigating whether he acted alone or was connected to any broader group.
Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment in their work — including verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats — while reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech in a troubled region.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage.
The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions, unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media.
The acts of harassment began early in the protests. MTV television reporter Nawal Berry was attacked in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations by supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg.
"How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy," Berry told The Associated Press.
No malarkey: Biden courts Iowans, balances national campaign
STORM LAKE, Iowa (AP) — Minutes after Joe Biden met Cathy Buxengard, he commandeered her cellphone to talk with her 99-year-old mother about her service as a World War II nurse and how worried she is about the United States today.
"You took care of ‘em, Mom. ... Thank you, thank you, thank you," the former vice-president, born during the war, said to Jo Strube as her daughter looked on, eyes welling.
Days later, near the end of his eight-day Iowa bus tour that concludes Saturday, the Democratic presidential contender stood alongside the man who, 15 years ago, won the nomination Biden now seeks. "Never has there been a moment more important for a person like Joe Biden to sit behind that desk in the Oval Office," John Kerry declared.
The breadth of Biden’s most intense campaign blitz since he launched his campaign in April showcased the 77-year-old’s potential reach across a disparate and diverse Democratic electorate. Yet it also highlighted the needle-threading and sometimes-contradictory effort that Biden is attempting as he grasps a third time for the presidency. Polls suggest he remains a national front-runner, but he is in a cluster with Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire.
His advisers insist that he doesn't have to win Iowa to claim the Democratic nomination, with his support among minority voters giving him options in later states. But the emphasis on Iowa reflected a campaign that doesn't want to start the 2020 nominating calendar with a bad showing on Feb. 3. "It's getting cuttin' time here," Biden said Friday.
PG&E says it has reached $13.5 billion wildfire settlement
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Pacific Gas and Electric announced Friday it has reached a tentative $13.5 billion settlement resolving all major claims related to the deadly, devastating Northern California wildfires of 2017-2018 that were blamed on its outdated equipment and negligence.
The utility says the deal, which still requires court approval, represents a key step in leading it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The deal is expected to resolve all claims arising from a series of deadly 2017 Northern California wildfires and the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and all but incinerated the town of Paradise. It also resolves claims from the 2015 Butte Fire and Oakland’s 2016 Ghost Ship Fire.
"From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal," Bill Johnson, PG&E Corporation's CEO and president, said in a statement Friday. "We want to help our customers, our neighbours and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires."
In most cases the 2017 and 2018 fires were blamed on power lines, and two attorneys representing more than 5,000 Northern California fire victims hailed the settlement.
Warren, Buttigieg scrap puts Democratic divide on display
WASHINGTON (AP) — Elizabeth Warren has spent weeks absorbing attacks from moderate rivals looking to blunt her surging campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, as the Massachusetts senator risks losing momentum, she's starting to hit back.
After a Democratic Party fundraiser in Boston on Thursday night, Warren blasted Pete Buttigieg, who is emerging as a leading moderate candidate in the lead-off Iowa caucuses set for Feb. 3. She criticized the South Bend, Indiana, mayor for holding closed-door fundraisers with big donors.
"I think that Mayor Pete should open up the doors so that anyone can come in and report on what’s being said," Warren said. "Those doors shouldn’t be closed, and no one should be left to wonder what kind of promises are being made to the people that then pony up big bucks to be in the room."
Like Warren, Buttigieg has spent much of the past year presenting himself as someone uninterested in political squabbling. But that didn't stop his senior adviser, Lis Smith, from chiding Warren for not being forthcoming about her past legal work representing corporate clients.
"If @ewarren wants to have a debate about transparency, she can start by opening up the doors to the decades of tax returns she’s hiding from her work as a corporate lawyer — often defending the types of corporate bad actors she now denounces," Smith tweeted.
Lawsuit challenges speedy reviews of asylum claims
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A new effort to speed up initial reviews of asylum claims to within three days denies asylum-seekers rights to consult attorneys, according to the latest legal challenge to the Trump administration's immigration enforcement policies and practices.
The federal lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., challenges fast-track procedures introduced in El Paso, Texas, in early October that U.S. officials say may be expanded to other parts of the U.S. border with Mexico after a trial period.
Asylum-seekers are held in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility with a window of up to about an hour to call family and attorneys, and they have no guarantee of confidentiality, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday. No callback numbers are provided.
CBP facilities are "legal black holes," according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and several asylum-seekers who were deported to El Salvador or Mexico after failing an initial screening, known as a credible fear interview.
The fast-track efforts "systematically undermine the procedural safeguards guaranteed to those seeking asylum by rocketing asylum seekers through the credible fear process with no access to counsel," the lawsuit states. "Congress provided for protections for people in credible fear proceedings in order to prevent the United States government from erroneously sending asylum seekers back to places where they face persecution, torture, and possibly death."
Supreme Court keeps federal executions on hold
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday blocked the Trump administration from restarting federal executions next week after a 16-year break.
The justices denied the administration's plea to undo a lower court ruling in favour of inmates who have been given execution dates. The first of those had been scheduled for Monday, with a second set for Friday. Two more inmates had been given execution dates in January.
Attorney General William Barr announced during the summer that federal executions would resume using a single drug, pentobarbital, to put inmates to death.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., temporarily halted the executions after some of the chosen inmates challenged the new execution procedures in court. Chutkan ruled that the procedure approved by Barr likely violates the Federal Death Penalty Act.
The federal appeals court in Washington had earlier denied the administration’s emergency plea to put Chutkan’s ruling on hold and allow the executions to proceed.
Officials list pot vape brands reported in US outbreak
NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials investigating a nationwide outbreak of vaping illnesses have listed, for the first time, the vape brands most commonly linked to hospitalizations.
Most of the nearly 2,300 people who suffered lung damage had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana.
In a report released Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the products most often cited by patients, noting that some of them said they vaped more than one.
Dank Vapes was the brand used by 56% of the hospitalized patients nationwide.
Dank is not a licensed product coming from one business, it is empty packaging that can be ordered from Chinese internet sites. Illicit vaping cartridge makers can buy the empty packages and then fill them with whatever they choose.
No. 13 Oregon ends No. 5 Utah's playoff hopes with 37-15 win
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The one constant all season for Utah was the ability to control the trenches against any opponent.
With a possible playoff berth and first Pac-12 title in school history on the line, the Utes more than met their match against Oregon.
CJ Verdell ran for 208 yards and broke open the game with two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, and No. 13 Oregon spoiled No. 5 Utah's playoff hopes with a 37-15 victory in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.
"Unfortunately we came up short tonight," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Disappointing thing is we lost in the one area we've been undefeated this year: line of scrimmage. We didn't win the line of scrimmage for the first time all season, which is, like I say, disappointing. Surprising really."
The Utes (11-2, No. 5 CFP) came into the game hoping to make a case for one of the four playoff spots with a conference title but instead got overmatched by Oregon (11-2, No. 13 CFP) and lost their second straight Pac-12 championship game.