Puerto Rico concedes Hurricane Maria deaths more than 1,400

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico has conceded that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people on the island last year and not just the 64 in the official death toll.

The government acknowledged the higher death toll with no fanfare in a report submitted to Congress this week in which it detailed a $139 billion reconstruction plan for the island.

That quiet acknowledgement was first reported Thursday by The New York Times.

Puerto Rican officials have admitted that more than 64 people likely died from the powerful storm that knocked out the power grid and caused widespread flooding that made many roads impassable. But a more exact number has been a matter of debate that the government has sought to end by commissioning an academic study due out in coming weeks.

Council wants to remove Trump star from Walk of Fame

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — The West Hollywood City Council has unanimously approved a resolution seeking to remove President Donald Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The resolution urges the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles to remove the star because of what it says is Trump’s “disturbing treatment of women and other actions.”

However, chamber president Leron Gubler tells the Los Angeles Times the chamber has never removed a star because it’s considered part of the walk’s “historic fabric.”

Monday’s vote came after a man accused of taking a pickax to the star last month was charged with a felony count of vandalism. The star was previously vandalized days before the November 2016 election.

It has been repaired.

The star recognized Trump for his work on the TV reality show “The Apprentice.”

Pompeo says sanctions a pillar of U.S. policy toward Iran

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran will be rigorously enforced and remain in place until the Iranian government radically changes course.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane on his way home from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, Pompeo said Monday’s re-imposition of sanctions is an important pillar in U.S. policy toward Iran. He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran.

“We’re hopeful that we can find a way to move forward but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” he said Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”

Pompeo called the Iranian leadership “bad actors” and said President Donald Trump is intent on getting them to “behave like a normal country.”

A first Continue reading “Pompeo says sanctions a pillar of U.S. policy toward Iran”

Acting CIA watchdog up for top job resigns

ASPEN, Colo. — The acting watchdog at the CIA, who has been accused of retaliating against whistleblowers, is resigning, the agency confirmed Friday.

Christopher Sharpley, whose nomination for the inspector general post had stalled in the Senate, said in a memo to employees at his office that he was stepping down.

CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement the agency was grateful to Sharpley for his service, "including his work to professionalize" the office. Sharpley has 36 years of investigative and law enforcement experience and created two inspectors general offices within the government.

"After three decades of public service, he has decided to continue his career outside the agency, and we wish him the best in this new chapter," Trapani said. "CIA’s commitment to rigorous, independent oversight is unwavering, and the Office of Inspector General will carry on that important mission through the transition."

The announcement did not Continue reading “Acting CIA watchdog up for top job resigns”

Officials: DHS asks military for 12,000 beds to detain families

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has formally requested space for up to 12,000 beds at a military base to detain families caught crossing the border illegally, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

The request seeks 2,000 beds to be up and running in the next 45 days, and the remaining space to be available on an as-needed basis, the Defense Department said in a statement.

The facility must comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s family residential standards, as well as a 1997 agreement known as the Flores settlement, which governs how children are housed in immigration custody. Those standards require air conditioning, libraries, private showers, plus medical, dental and mental health facilities. Those rules also state there must be freedom of movement within the facility during the day.

The facility will be housed at a military base, but it’s not clear yet which one. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Continue reading “Officials: DHS asks military for 12,000 beds to detain families”

Woman accused of leaking U.S. secrets pleads guilty

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A woman accused of leaking U.S. secrets to a news outlet pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Georgia.

Reality Winner, 26, entered her guilty plea after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors that calls for her to serve five years and three months behind bars, news outlets reported. A judge will sentence her later.

“All of these actions I did willfully, meaning I did them of my own free will,” she told the court, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

Winner has been held without bail since she was arrested in June 2017 and charged under the Espionage Act. Her trial had been set to start Oct. 15.

She is a former Air Force linguist who speaks Arabic and Farsi and had a top-secret security clearance. She worked for the national security contractor Pluribus International at Fort Gordon in Georgia when she was charged in June 2017 Continue reading “Woman accused of leaking U.S. secrets pleads guilty”

ABC orders ‘Roseanne’ spinoff for fall minus Roseanne Barr

LOS ANGELES — ABC, which canceled its "Roseanne" revival over its star’s racist tweet, says it will air a Conner family sitcom minus Roseanne Barr this fall.

ABC ordered 10 episodes of the spinoff after Barr agreed to forgo any creative or financial participation in it.

In a statement issued by the show’s producer, Barr says she agreed to the settlement in order to save the jobs of 200 cast and crew members.

ABC said Thursday that the new series has the working title "The Conners" and will star John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and other "Roseanne" co-stars.

The revival of the hit 1988-97 sitcom "Roseanne" was axed by ABC after Barr posted a tweet likening former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to a product of the Muslim Brotherhood and "Planet of the Apes."

China says it will retaliate on any US tariffs

China says it will retaliate against any move by the U.S. to impose punishing tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of Chinese goods.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that China’s response would be immediate and that Beijing would “take necessary measures to defend our legitimate rights and interests.”

Geng gave no details but said both the foreign and commerce ministries had made formal responses to earlier U.S. statements.

Beijing has also drawn up a list of $50 billion in U.S. products that would face retaliatory tariffs, including beef and soybeans — a shot at Trump’s supporters in rural America.

Trump reportedly met Thursday with several Cabinet members and trade advisers and was expected to impose tariffs on at least $35 billion to $40 billion of Chinese imports.

North America wins vote to host 2026 World Cup

MOSCOW — North America will host the 2026 World Cup after FIFA voters overwhelmingly opted for the financial and logistical certainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroccan proposal for the first 48-team tournament.

The soccer showpiece will return to the U.S. for the first time since 1994 after gaining 134 votes, while Morocco got 65 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow on Wednesday.

The vote by football federations was public, in contrast to secrecy surrounding the ballot by FIFA’s elected board members for the 2018 and 2022 hosts, Russia and Qatar, in 2010.

The U.S. proposed staging 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the finals, leaving Canada and Mexico with ten fixtures each. North America will host the 2026 World Cup after FIFA voters overwhelmingly opted for the financial and logistical certainty of a United States-led Continue reading “North America wins vote to host 2026 World Cup”

Kremlin: Vienna possible venue for Trump-Putin summit

The Kremlin says that Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump have mentioned Vienna as a possible venue for their summit, but no decision has been made.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Saturday that Putin and Trump discussed the prospects for their meeting in a March phone call and talked about locations, with Vienna as a possibility.

Speaking in Qingdao in China where Putin is attending a regional summit, Peskov noted that “there have been no concrete agreements or understandings, and no specific discussions are being conducted now.”

Peskov added the issue also came up for discussion during Putin’s talks with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz earlier this week, but he emphasized that Russia and the U.S. first need to come to an agreement.

Ex-Senate aide appears in federal court after indictment

A former employee of the Senate intelligence committee appeared before a federal court in Maryland Friday after being arrested for lying to the FBI about contacts with multiple reporters.

James A. Wolfe, the longtime director of security for the committee — one of multiple congressional panels investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign — was indicted on three false statement counts Thursday evening after prosecutors say he misled agents about his relationships with reporters. He made a brief appearance in federal court in Baltimore Friday, where U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson released him from custody and ordered him to appear at the federal courthouse in Washington next week.

Wolfe did not answer questions from reporters as he left the hearing.

Though Wolfe is not charged with disclosing classified information, prosecutors say he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them Continue reading “Ex-Senate aide appears in federal court after indictment”

Judge lets lawsuit challenging family separation go forward

SAN DIEGO — A judge allowed a lawsuit challenging U.S. immigration authorities for separating parents from their children to go forward on Wednesday but said he would decide later whether or not to order a nationwide halt.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said the lawsuit involving a 7-year-old girl who was separated from her Congolese mother and a 14-year-old boy who was separated from his Brazilian mother could proceed on a claim that their constitutional rights to a fair hearing were denied. He said he would issue separate rulings on the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide injunction and to expand the lawsuit to apply to all parents and children who are split up by border authorities.

Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said the allegations “describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child.”

“Such conduct, if Continue reading “Judge lets lawsuit challenging family separation go forward”

Iran informs U.N. of increase in nuclear enrichment capacity

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that it will increase its nuclear enrichment capacity within the limits set by the 2015 agreement with world powers.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency, was quoted by state TV on Tuesday as saying a letter was submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency detailing the move.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ordered the increase in a speech Monday, in which he vowed that the country would preserve its nuclear program despite the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 2015 accord. Iran has said it has the option of resuming industrial-scale enrichment now that the U.S. has withdrawn from the deal.

The agreement set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of U.S. and international sanctions.

Prosecutor dropping computer tampering case against Greitens

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — One of two criminal cases against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens will be dismissed, now that the Republican governor has announced his resignation, St. Louis’ top prosecutor said Wednesday.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced that her office has reached a deal to dismiss a felony charge of computer data tampering. A day earlier, Greitens made the stunning announcement that he would step down from office effective Friday, citing "legal harassment."

"I remain confident we have the evidence required to pursue charges against Mr. Greitens, but sometimes pursuing charges is not the right thing to do for our city or our state," Gardner said.

The charge, filed in April following an investigation by the Missouri attorney general’s office, accused Greitens of using a donor list from the veterans charity he founded, The Mission Accomplished, for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

Greitens also was indicted on felony Continue reading “Prosecutor dropping computer tampering case against Greitens”

Russian journalist who was reported killed shows up at news conference in Ukraine

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who had been reported shot and killed in the Ukrainian capital Tuesday, has shown up at a news conference very much alive.

Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, told a news conference on Wednesday the agency faked Babchenko’s death to catch those who were trying to kill him.

Kiev and national police had said Babchenko, a strong critic of the Kremlin, was shot multiple times in the back at his apartment building and found bleeding by his wife.

He showed up at Gritsak’s news conference on Wednesday and thanked everyone who was mourning his death.

Babchenko, 41, one of Russia’s best-known war reporters, spoke and wrote year about leaving the country because of repeated threats that he and his family would be harmed.

Israeli military: More than 25 mortar shells fired from Gaza

JERUSALEM — Gaza militants fired more than 25 mortar shells toward communities in southern Israel Tuesday, the Israeli military said, in what appeared to be the largest single barrage fired since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

No one was hurt and the military said most were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. But the high volume of projectiles came as tensions have been running high along the Israel-Gaza border.

Israeli media reported that one of the shells landed near a kindergarten shortly before it opened.

There was no immediate comment on the shelling from Hamas, the militant Islamic group that runs the Gaza Strip. Hamas has said a boatful of students and medical patients would set sail out of Gaza City’s port on Tuesday, aiming to break 11 years of naval blockade that Egypt and Israel imposed after the militants violently took control of the coastal territory.

The expedition would Continue reading “Israeli military: More than 25 mortar shells fired from Gaza”

China approves 13 new Ivanka Trump trademarks in 3 months

SHANGHAI — Ivanka Trump’s brand continues to win foreign trademarks in China and the Philippines, adding to questions about conflicts of interest at the White House, The Associated Press has found.

On Sunday, China granted the first daughter’s company final approval for its 13th trademark in the past three months, trademark office records show. Over the same period, the Chinese government has granted Ivanka Trump’s company provisional approval for another eight trademarks, which can be finalized if no objections are raised during a three-month comment period.

Taken together, the trademarks could allow her brand to market a lifetime’s worth of products in China, from baby blankets to coffins, and a host of things in between, including perfume, make-up, bowls, mirrors, furniture, books, coffee, chocolate and honey. Ivanka Trump stepped back from management of her brand and placed its assets in a family-run trust, but she continues to profit from the Continue reading “China approves 13 new Ivanka Trump trademarks in 3 months”

Trump pardons late boxer Jack Johnson

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion more than 100 years after what Trump said many feel was a racially motivated injustice.

Jack Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.

Trump was joined by boxer Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone as he announced the decision.

Johnson is a legendary figure in boxing, who crossed over into popular culture decades ago with biographies, dramas and documentaries following the civil rights era.

He died in 1946. His great-great niece had been pressing for a posthumous pardon.

Sen. John McCain and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had also pushed Johnson’s case for years

North Korea demolishes what it says is nuclear test site

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korea carried out what it said is the demolition of its nuclear test site Thursday, setting off a series of explosions over several hours in the presence of foreign journalists.

The explosions at the nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the North’s sparsely populated northeast were centered on three tunnels at the underground site and a number of buildings in the surrounding area.

The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to take place next month.

The demolition came as the North lobbed another verbal salvo at Washington, calling Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” and saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.

The North’s decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally Continue reading “North Korea demolishes what it says is nuclear test site”

Pompeo: U.S. will fight Russian interference in 2018 elections

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the Trump administration will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 congressional midterm elections.

Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration will take “appropriate countermeasures” to fight what he called “continued efforts” by Russia to meddle in November’s vote. He did not elaborate on the Russian interference or say what the countermeasures would be but said there was much more work to be done to stop Russia’s efforts.

He said the U.S. had not yet been able to establish “effective deterrence” to halt them.

The top-ranking Democrat on the committee, Eliot Engel, however, contended that the Trump administration “is giving Russia a pass” because Russian President Vladimir Putin “supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton” in the 2016 presidential election.

“If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we’ve Continue reading “Pompeo: U.S. will fight Russian interference in 2018 elections”