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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Kavanaugh, Ford and the makings of a where-were-you moment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Could it be, years from now, that you will remember where you were and what you were doing when Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford came to Washington to relive their conflicting high school memories?

Are we on the verge of one of those moments — like, for those old enough, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Or when the space shuttle Challenger exploded? Or the twin towers fell?

Do such indelible moments even happen anymore?

For more than two years American political life has been a rough and ugly storm of debate over gender, power, ego and truth. “#MeToo” swept through the culture. “Me,” says President Donald Trump. “Me.”

For a few hours on Thursday, all these crosscurrents will blow into a single, small hearing room on Capitol Hill where the fate of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — and much more — is at stake. The judge and the professor will endure the gaze of senators, the questions of a prosecutor, and the court of public opinion. Their performances may tilt the outcome of November elections that will determine control of Congress. They could affect the direction of the high court for a generation.

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Make-or-break Senate hearing day for Kavanaugh, accuser

WASHINGTON (AP) — With high drama in the making, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh emphatically fended off new accusations of sexual misconduct Wednesday and headed into a charged public Senate hearing that could determine whether Republicans can salvage his nomination and enshrine a high court conservative majority.

The Senate Judiciary Committee — 11 Republicans, all men, and 10 Democrats — was to hear from just two witnesses on Thursday: Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge who has long been eyed for the Supreme Court, and Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who accuses him of attempting to rape her when they were teens.

Republicans have derided her allegation as part of a smear campaign and a Democratic plot to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination. But after more allegations have emerged, some GOP senators have allowed that much is riding on Kavanaugh’s performance. Even President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh and fiercely defends him, said he was “open to changing my mind.”

“I want to watch, I want to see,” he said at a news conference in New York.

Kavanaugh himself has repeatedly denied all the allegations, saying he’d never even heard of the latest accuser and calling her accusations “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone.”

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Networks plan wall-to-wall Kavanaugh hearing coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — The biggest broadcasters and cable news networks are clearing their daytime schedules Thursday for coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault when they were high school students in the 1980s.

With the wall-to-wall coverage starting at 10 a.m. EDT, the hearing promises to be a national drama along the lines of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing in 1991, when Anita Hill testified that he had sexually harassed her.

Kavanaugh has forcefully denied Ford’s accusations.

“The stakes are very high,” said Christopher Isham, vice president and Washington bureau chief at CBS News. Not only are the political implications huge, with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court at stake, the hearing is likely to continue the national conversation over treatment of women that has been taking place since the beginning of the #MeToo movement.

Since it wasn’t certain when or even if the hearing would take place until a couple of days ago, it has meant for some furious last-minute planning to organize the television coverage.

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APNewsBreak: 80,000 people died of flu last winter in US

NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, revealed the total in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press.

Flu experts knew it was a very bad season, but at least one found the size of the estimate surprising.

“That’s huge,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said.

In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000, according to the CDC.

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What’s happened with bump stocks since the Las Vegas attack?

The gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting was armed with 23 AR-style weapons, 14 of them fitted with “bump stocks” that allowed them to mimic fully automatic fire.

The devices were little-known before they were used in the Oct. 1 rampage, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. And in the immediate aftermath, there were calls from a wide spectrum of lawmakers and advocates on firearms issues to have them banned.

Here’s what has happened with the devices since the attack that left 58 dead:

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

In the shooting’s immediate aftermath, there appeared to be a growing desire to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks, which federal authorities previously deemed legal and not subject to the same tighter restrictions reserved for fully automatic firearms.

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Fed raises rates for 3rd time this year with 1 more expected

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve signaled its confidence Wednesday in the U.S. economy by raising a key interest rate for a third time this year, forecasting another rate hike before year’s end and predicting that it will continue to tighten credit into 2020 to manage growth and inflation.

The Fed lifted its short-term rate — a benchmark for many consumer and business loans — by a modest quarter-point to a range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent. It was its eighth hike since late 2015. The central bank also stuck with a previous forecast for three more rate hikes in 2019.

In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed dropped phrasing it had long used that characterized its policy as “accommodative” — that is, favoring low rates. The Fed had used variations of that pledge in the seven years that it kept its key rate at a record low near zero and over the past nearly three years in which it’s gradually tightened credit.

By removing that language, the Fed may be signaling its resolve to keep raising rates. In a news conference after its meeting, though, Chairman Jerome Powell said the removal of the “accommodative” language did not amount to a policy change.

“Our economy is strong,” Powell declared at the start of his news conference. “Growth is running at a healthy clip, unemployment is low. The number of people working is rising steadily, and wages are up. Inflation is low and stable, all of these are very good signs.”

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Some black Americans see racial comeuppance in Cosby saga

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — After spending years building his persona as a model husband and father, Bill Cosby took an abrupt turn nearly 15 years ago with a now-infamous speech to an NAACP convention.

He used his celebrity status to condemn poor African-Americans, chiding them to pull up their sagging pants, deriding them for having children out of wedlock and blaming them for their impoverished circumstances.

“Are you not paying attention? People with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack . with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap, and all of them are in jail.”

Cosby himself is now in a Pennsylvania prison cell, and many black Americans see his sentence as a moment of racial comeuppance.

As they learned of Cosby’s three- to 10-year prison term for sexual assault, the same people who were his targets in the 2004 speech regarded his fate as a convergence of karma, hubris and hypocrisy. Some quoted Cosby’s own words in tweets announcing the sentence.

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Cracked $2 billion transit hub tarnishes San Francisco’s rep

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco officials struggled Wednesday to find the source of unusual cracking in support beams that shut down a just-opened, $2 billion transit center meant to serve as a bold architectural statement from a wealthy, high-tech city.

The Salesforce Transit Center opened to great fanfare last month as an embodiment of San Francisco’s reputation for innovation and sustainability. Its rooftop park would provide green space for people to socialize while commuters could take buses from the multistory building that spans three city blocks.

Now, the transit hub named for a cloud computing giant appears to be the latest example of problems in a city brimming with homelessness and poor infrastructure. The shutdown, which officials say will last until the facility can be declared safe, caused chaos during Tuesday’s evening rush hour.

Enveloped in wavy white sheets of metal veil, the five-level center with a towering sky-lit central entrance hall sits in the South of Market neighborhood, where construction is booming. It’s adjacent to the so-called sinking condominium, Millennium Tower, which has settled about 18 inches (45 centimeters) since it opened over a former landfill in 2009.

Officials and construction experts say the transit center’s two cracked beams are not tied to the condo woes, though some homeowners have sued the developer and city alleging construction of the transit facility caused the Millennium Tower to sink.

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Man with long immigration record is charged with killings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man with a violent criminal history who was deported six times had no outstanding warrants when questioned last month about the disappearance of his aunt and so he was released, Houston police said Wednesday, when the man was charged in Los Angeles with the beating deaths of three men.

Immigration records are generally not public, so it remained a mystery how Ramon Escobar, 47, won an appeal in immigration court in 2016 and why he remained free after a subsequent arrest for assault.

The Aug. 30 encounter by Escobar with Houston police came two days after his aunt vanished and marked his last brush with the law before his arrest in California this week.

Escobar was charged Wednesday in Los Angeles County with three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of second-degree robbery in attacks involving homeless men.

It could not be immediately determined if he had an attorney.

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Focus on roughing the passer giving NFL a black eye

The NFL is getting roughed up over its amplified enforcement of roughing-the-passer penalties that has generated head-scratching calls — and a season-ending injury to a defender trying to comply with the league’s mandate not to land fully on the quarterback.

In the offseason, NFL owners asked the league’s competition committee to better protect their prized quarterbacks after Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr broke Packers star Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone in 2017.

So the league dusted off a rarely invoked 24-year-old rule that outlaws defenders from landing on the quarterback with more than half of their body weight.

“It helps me out because I’m a quarterback,” said Deshaun Watson of the Texans. “But some of the calls are just kind of crazy.”

So inconsistent, in fact, that Packers linebacker Clay Matthews , whose been whistled three times, suggested the league has gone soft. He argued that what constitutes a clean hit is anybody’s guess nowadays.

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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