George H.W. Bush arrives in summer home in Maine

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Former President George H.W. Bush is in Maine for the summer.

The 93-year-old arrived Sunday evening at his seaside home in Kennebunkport. Dozens of residents greeted his motorcade at the town’s Dock Square, with some waving flags and holding signs.

Friends say the nation’s 41st president was eager to get to Maine after enduring the death of his wife, Barbara, and then falling ill with a blood infection.

Bush has spent part of every summer in Kennebunkport since childhood with the exception of his service as a naval aviator in World War II. Officials say they anticipate a low-key summer with family and friends.

Sex-related charge dropped against Missouri governor

ST. LOUIS — Prosecutors on Monday abruptly dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens but said they still hope to pursue a case against him for allegedly taking a revealing photo of a woman with whom he has acknowledged having an affair.

Greitens, who has long denied any criminal wrongdoing, emerged from the courthouse declaring vindication. His attorneys asserted the case had crumbled under a lack of evidence and doubted any charge will ever be refiled.

“Today the prosecutor has dropped the false charges against me. This is a great victory and it has been a long time coming,” Greitens told reporters outside the St. Louis circuit courthouse. “This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man.”

The prosecutor’s surprise move, announced after the third day of jury selection, came after the judge had granted a request by Greitens’ lawyers to call Continue reading “Sex-related charge dropped against Missouri governor”

Shiite cleric Sadr leads in Iraq’s initial election results

BAGHDAD — The political coalition of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took an early lead in Iraq’s national elections in partial returns announced late Sunday by the Iraqi electoral commission.

An alliance of candidates linked to Iraq’s powerful Shiite paramilitary groups was in second. The alliance is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former minister of transport with close ties to Iran who became a senior commander of paramilitary fighters in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi performed poorly across majority Shiite provinces that should have been his base of support.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout. It included full returns from only 10 of the country’s 19 provinces, including the provinces of Baghdad and Basra.

Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of Continue reading “Shiite cleric Sadr leads in Iraq’s initial election results”

Iranian cleric threatens destruction of Israeli cities

TEHRAN, Iran — A prominent Iranian cleric on Friday threatened two Israeli cities with destruction if the Jewish state “acts foolishly” and attacks its interests again, while thousands of protesters demonstrated against President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers.

The comments by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami followed a week of escalating tensions that threaten to spill over into a wider conflict between the two bitter enemies, who have long fought each other through proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

Israeli airstrikes struck Iranian military installations inside Syria on Thursday — its biggest coordinated assault on Syria since the 1973 Mideast war — in retaliation for an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. It was the most serious military confrontation between the two rivals to date.

Khatami, who has echoed sentiments of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who says Israel will not exist in Continue reading “Iranian cleric threatens destruction of Israeli cities”

Freed detainees on way home from North Korea

WASHINGTON — Freed after more than a year in prison, three Americans flew homeward from North Korea late Tuesday toward a big middle-of-the-night celebration featuring President Donald Trump — the latest sign of improving relations between longtime adversaries in the buildup to a historic summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Trump promised “quite a scene” at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington for the detainees, who were released as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalize plans for the summit. Singapore was the likely site, late this month or in early June, for Trump’s most ambitious foreign policy effort yet.

Shortly after they touched down on American soil in Alaska — for a refueling stop Wednesday afternoon— the State Department released a statement from the freed men.

“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Continue reading “Freed detainees on way home from North Korea”

George Deukmejian, ‘Iron Duke’ governor of California, dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two-term California Gov. George Deukmejian, whose anti-spending credo earned him the nickname “The Iron Duke,” died Tuesday of natural causes. He was 89.

The Republican spent three decades in California politics as an assemblyman, senator, state attorney general and governor. He was elected as the state’s 35th governor in 1982 when a massive absentee voting campaign edged him just ahead of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

“It was a real comeback,” said Ken Khachigian, a longtime friend of Deukmejian who recalled the governor-elect celebrating his win with a bowl of his favorite ice cream.

As governor from 1983 to 1991, Deukmejian ran a law-and-order administration expanding the state prison system, bringing the left-leaning California Supreme Court to the center and supporting tough, anti-crime legislation.

Despite a few notable exceptions, Deukmejian made his opposition to new taxes and increased government spending a focus of his political career. His Continue reading “George Deukmejian, ‘Iron Duke’ governor of California, dies”

Hundreds arrested in Russia amid anti-Putin protests

Russians angered by the impending inauguration of Vladimir Putin to a new term as president protested Saturday in scores of cities across the country — and police responded by reportedly arresting more than 1,000 of them.

Among those arrested was protest organizer Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin’s most prominent foe.

Police seized Navalny by the arms and legs and carried the activist from Moscow’s Pushkin Square, where thousands were gathered for an unauthorized protest.

Police also used batons against protesters who chanted “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia will be free!”

Demonstrations under the slogan “He is not our czar” took place throughout the country, from Yakutsk in the far northeast to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on the fringes of Europe.

The protests demonstrated that Navalny’s opposition, although considered beleaguered by officials and largely ignored by state-controlled television, has sizeable support in much of the Continue reading “Hundreds arrested in Russia amid anti-Putin protests”

North Korea vows to close nuclear test site in May

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to shut down the country’s nuclear test site in May and open the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States, Seoul’s presidential office said Sunday.

The event may serve as a dramatic setup to Kim’s crucial nuclear negotiations with President Donald Trump that may take place in the next few weeks amid widespread skepticism on whether the North will ever fully surrender its nuclear weapons.

Kim made the comments during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday at a border truce village, where he also expressed optimism about his meeting with Trump, saying the U.S. president will learn he’s “not a person” to fire missiles toward the United States, Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

Moon and Kim during the summit promised to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Continue reading “North Korea vows to close nuclear test site in May”

Spokesman: Barbara Bush in ‘failing health’

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in “failing health” and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday.

“Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care,” spokesman Jim McGrath said in a news release.

McGrath did not elaborate as to the nature of Bush’s health problems. She has been treated for decades for Graves’ disease, which is a thyroid condition.

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others,” McGrath said. “She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

Continue reading “Spokesman: Barbara Bush in ‘failing health’”

Shooter wounds three at YouTube before killing herself

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — A woman opened fire Tuesday at YouTube headquarters, wounding three people before fatally shooting herself as terrified employees huddled inside, police and witnesses said.

After receiving multiple 911 calls reporting gunfire, officers and federal agents swarmed the company’s suburban campus sandwiched between two interstates in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno.

YouTube employee Dianna Arnspiger said she was on the building’s second floor when she heard gun shots, ran to a window and saw the shooter on a patio outside.

She said the woman wore glasses and a scarf and was using a “big huge pistol.”

“It was a woman and she was firing her gun. And I just said, ‘Shooter,’ and everybody started running,” Arnspiger said.

She and others hid in a conference room for an hour while a male employee repeatedly called 911 for updates.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

Continue reading “Shooter wounds three at YouTube before killing herself”

Court: Trump administration can’t block immigrant teens from obtaining abortions

A federal court in Washington told the Trump administration Friday the government can’t interfere with the ability of pregnant teens in the country illegally and being held in federal custody to obtain abortions.

The court issued an order Friday evening barring the government from "interfering with or obstructing" pregnant immigrant children in federal custody from accessing abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, had said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit, which U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan also Friday allowed to go forward as a class-action lawsuit.

"We have been able to secure justice for these young pregnant women in government custody who will no longer be subject Continue reading “Court: Trump administration can’t block immigrant teens from obtaining abortions”

Kansas girl at center of 1954 school segregation ruling dies

Linda Brown, the Kansas girl at the center of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools, has died at age 76.

Topeka’s former Sumner School was all-white when her father, Oliver, tried to enroll the family. He became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ended school segregation.

Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel of Topeka confirmed that Linda Brown died Sunday afternoon. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of The Brown Foundation, confirmed the death to The Topeka Capital-Journal . She declined comment from the family.

“Her legacy is not only here but nationwide,” Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said. “The effect she had on our society would be unbelievable and insurmountable.”

The landmark case was brought before the Supreme Court by the NAACP’s legal arm to challenge segregation Continue reading “Kansas girl at center of 1954 school segregation ruling dies”

One hurt after package bomb explodes at FedEx in Texas

The San Antonio Texas Fire Department says a package bomb has exploded at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas, hurting one person, a FedEx employee who apparently suffered a non-life-threatening “percussion-type” injury from the blast.

The FBI and ATF are at the scene. Federal agents say this package is likely linked to attacks by what they believe is a serial bomber.

Federal agents tell The Washington Post that a package bomb exploded shortly after midnight Tuesday inside a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas.

Spokeswomen for the FBI and the ATF say both agencies are at the scene.

The explosion happened at the facility just northeast of San Antonio sometime around 1 a.m., said FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee. ATF spokeswoman Nicole Strong said that early indications are that no one was injured.

Military exercises with South Korea to start April 1

WASHINGTON — At a potentially pivotal moment of diplomacy with North Korea, the Pentagon said Monday that annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises that had been postponed for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will begin April 1.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, agreed to go forward with the maneuvers, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, “at a scale similar to” that of previous years.

North Korea has been notified of the schedule “as well as the defensive nature” of the exercises, the Pentagon said.

The timing and size of the annual maneuvers are especially sensitive this year because of heightened tension over the North’s accelerated work last year on a nuclear-armed missile potentially capable of reaching the United States – followed, unexpectedly, by prospects for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis.

North Korea typically objects Continue reading “Military exercises with South Korea to start April 1”

2 hurt as new explosion jolts Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — Two people were injured in another explosion in Texas’ capital Sunday night, after three package bombs detonated earlier this month in other areas of the city and killed two people and injured two others.

Austin-Travis County Emergency Management Services reported that an explosion in southwest Austin injured two men in their 20s who were hospitalized with injuries that didn’t appear to be life-threatening.

There was no immediate word on what caused the blast or if it was related to the previous ones. Those blasts began when a package bomb exploded at an east Austin home on March 2, killing a 39-year-old man.

Two more package bombs then exploded March 12, killing a 17-year-old, wounding his mother and injuring a 75-year-old woman.

Sunday’s explosion occurred far from the first three blasts, which happened in separate, suburban neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.

Police blocked entrances to Continue reading “2 hurt as new explosion jolts Austin”

Stephen Hawking dies at 76

LONDON — Stephen Hawking, whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space though his body was paralyzed by disease, has died, a family spokesman said early Wednesday.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement.

The best-known theoretical physicist of his time, Hawking wrote so lucidly of the mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, “A Brief History of Time,” became an international best seller, making him one of science’s biggest celebrities since Albert Einstein.

Even though his body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when Hawking was 21, he stunned doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years. A severe attack of pneumonia in 1985 left him breathing through a tube, forcing him to communicate through an electronic Continue reading “Stephen Hawking dies at 76”

Bannon to France’s far right: ‘Let them call you racist … Wear it as a badge of honor’

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon re-energized France’s struggling far-right National Front party Saturday by speaking at a party congress and telling Marine Le Pen’s nationalist supporters: "History is on our side."

Bannon’s appearance in France was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his closed-borders message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.

The former Breitbart News chairman was an early admirer of the National Front, whose long-standing "French First" motto rallied French voters for years before Trump’s "America First" campaign.

"Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor," he told the crowd at the party congress.

The National Front has never won the French presidency, and the congress in Lille is aimed at remaking its image after Le Pen’s crushing defeat to independent, pro-globalization Emmanuel Macron Continue reading “Bannon to France’s far right: ‘Let them call you racist … Wear it as a badge of honor’”

Justice Department proposes banning rapid-fire bump stock

The Trump administration said Saturday it has taken the first step in the regulatory process to ban bump stocks, likely setting the stage for long legal battles with gun manufacturers while the trigger devices remain on the market.

The move was expected after President Donald Trump ordered the Justice Department to work toward a ban following the shooting deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school in February. Bump stocks, which enable guns to fire like automatic weapons, were not used in that attack — they were used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre — but have since become a focal point in the gun control debate.

The Justice Department’s regulation would classify the hardware as a machine gun banned under federal law. That would reverse a 2010 decision by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that found bump stocks did not amount to machine guns Continue reading “Justice Department proposes banning rapid-fire bump stock”

Grenade thrown at U.S. embassy

ODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro’s government said Thursday that an attacker threw a hand grenade at the U.S. Embassy in the capital of the Balkan state and then killed himself with another explosive device.

The area was sealed off by police, and the embassy warned Americans to avoid the area because of “an active security situation.”

Montenegro’s government said the unknown assailant hurled the grenade into the embassy compound around midnight and then killed himself with another explosive device. No one else was apparently hurt and there was no major damage.

“The Embassy is currently conducting an internal review to confirm the safety of all staff,” the State Department in Washington said.

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea in southeastern Europe and its capital is Podgorica. It joined NATO last year despite strong opposition from its traditional Slavic ally Russia.

Several people, including two Russian secret service officers, are currently Continue reading “Grenade thrown at U.S. embassy”

McMaster: Russian meddling beyond dispute

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has told an international audience that the evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 American election is beyond dispute.

H.R. McMaster was answering a question from a Russian delegate, shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left the same stage at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Referring to the indictment of 13 Russians announced Friday, McMaster said "with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible" of Russia cyber-meddling.

He also scoffed at any move to work with Russia on cybersecurity, saying "we would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage."

Lavrov, just moments earlier, had dismissed the indictments as "just blabber" through an interpreter.