AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT

Supreme Court moves right, but how far, how fast?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Yet Kavanaugh may have a hard time putting behind him the tumultuous confirmation process, which ended with the Senate voting 50-48 to confirm him Saturday, the narrowest margin of victory for a Supreme Court nominee in 137 years.

“In the public mind, there will always be this dark cloud hanging over the court, even if Kavanaugh is eventually embraced by all his colleagues on the court,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

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McConnell says Senate ‘not broken’ after Kavanaugh fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Picking up the pieces after a contentious nomination battle, the Senate’s majority leader said Sunday that the chamber won’t be irreparably damaged by the wrenching debate over sexual misconduct that has swirled around new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

While Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a shining moment for the GOP heading into next month’s pivotal elections, GOP Gov. John Kasich of Ohio predicted “a good year” for Democrats and said he wonders about “the soul of our country” in the long term after the tumultuous hearings.

McConnell, in two news show interviews, tried to distinguish between President Donald Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh this year and his own decision not to have the GOP-run Senate consider President Barack Obama’s high court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016. McConnell called the current partisan divide a “low point,” but he blamed Democrats.

“The Senate’s not broken,” said McConnell. “We didn’t attack Merrick Garland’s background and try to destroy him.” He asserted that “we simply followed the tradition of America.”

The climactic 50-48 roll call vote Saturday on Kavanaugh was the closest vote to confirm a justice since 1881. It capped a fight that seized the national conversation after claims emerged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted women three decades ago. Kavanaugh emphatically denied the allegations.

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20 dead in crash of limo bound for birthday celebration

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (AP) — A limousine loaded with revelers bound for a 30th birthday celebration blew through a stop sign at the end of a highway and slammed into a parked SUV outside a store, killing all 18 people in the limo and two pedestrians in the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in nearly a decade, officials and victims’ relatives said Sunday.

The collision turned a relaxed Saturday afternoon into chaos at an upstate New York spot popular with tourists taking in the fall foliage. Relatives said the limousine was carrying four sisters and their friends to a birthday celebration for the youngest.

“They did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive anywhere,” their aunt, Barbara Douglas, told reporters Sunday. She said three of the sisters were with their husbands and identified them as Amy and Axel Steenburg, Abigail and Adam Jackson, Mary and Rob Dyson and Allison King.

Douglas said the couples had several children between them who they left at home.

“They were wonderful girls,” Douglas said. “They’d do anything for you and they were very close to each other and they loved their family.”

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Brazil’s far-right candidate surprises with big lead

SAO PAULO (AP) — A far-right former army captain who expresses nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship took a strong lead in its presidential election Sunday, rallying voters to his promises to rid Latin America’s largest nation of rampant corruption, crime and moral rot.

With 92.5 percent of returns in, congressman Jair Bolsonaro was leading polls with 47 percent of the votes. If he manages more than 50 percent, he will win the presidency outright. If he doesn’t, he heads to a runoff with the second-place candidate.

He is trailed by Fernando Haddad, the leftist stand-in for jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva, who was barred from running. Haddad has 28 percent of the vote.

Polls predicted Bolsonaro would win the first round of voting but face a runoff. Bolsonaro, however, has far outperformed expectations, blazing past competitors with more financing, institutional backing of parties and free air time on television.

Ultimately, Bolsonaro’s strong showing reflects a yearning for the past as much as a sign of the future. The candidate from the tiny Social and Liberal Party made savvy use of Twitter and Facebook to spread his message that only he could end the corruption, crime and economic malaise that has seized Brazil in recent years — and bring back the good ol’ days and traditional values.

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Pro-Russian Serb leader wins seat in Bosnia’s presidency

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia’s three-member presidency, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago.

Preliminary official results from Sunday’s election gave Dodik 56 percent of the vote and his main opponent, Mladen Ivanic, 42 percent. The projections were made with 44 percent of ballots counted.

“The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want,” Dodik said, adding that voters “punished” his opponent for his “servile policies toward the West.”

Ivanic conceded defeat, but said “it’s too early for some definitive results.”

Complete official results are expected Monday.

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Wife says Interpol officer sent knife image as danger signal

LYON, France (AP) — The wife of Interpol’s president made an impassioned plea Sunday for help in bringing her missing husband to safety, saying she thinks he sent an image of a knife before he disappeared in China as a way to warn her he was in danger.

Grace Meng detailed the last messages she exchanged with her husband, Interpol President Meng Hongwei, to reporters as part of her unusual appeal. Meng is China’s vice minister for public security, and regularly traveled between Beijing and Lyon, France, where Interpol is based.

His wife’s plea underscored how China’s system of shady and often-arbitrary detentions can ensnare even a senior public security official with international standing, leaving loved ones uninformed and in a panic.

In news that could confirm her fears: China announced less than an hour after she spoke Sunday that Meng was under investigation on suspicion of unspecified legal violations, making him the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping crackdown by the ruling Communist Party.

Interpol then announced that Meng had resigned as president, effective immediately. It did not say why, or provide details about Meng’s whereabouts or condition. He was elected to lead the international police agency in 2016 and his term was not set to end until 2020.

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Missing Saudi journalist once a voice of reform in kingdom

BEIRUT (AP) — Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared last week after a visit to his country’s consulate in Turkey, was once a Saudi insider. A close aide to the kingdom’s former spy chief, he had been a leading voice in the country’s prominent dailies, including the main English newspapers.

Now the 59-year-old journalist and contributor to The Washington Post is feared dead, and Turkish authorities believe he was slain inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, something Saudi officials vehemently deny.

The U.S.-educated Khashoggi was no stranger to controversy.

A graduate of Indiana State University, Khashoggi began his career in the 1980s, covering the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the decade-long war that followed for the English-language daily Saudi Gazette. He traveled extensively in the Middle East, covering Algeria’s 1990s war against Islamic militants, and the Islamists rise in Sudan.

He interviewed Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before al-Qaida was formed, then met him in Sudan in 1995. Following bin Laden’s rise likely helped cement Khashoggi’s ties with powerful former Saudi spy chief, Turki Al-Faisal.

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Kavanaugh impartiality to be tested in blue state lawsuits

Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court has put a spotlight on the dozens of federal cases pitting the Trump administration against Democratic-leaning states, on issues including auto emission standards, immigration and a free-flowing internet.

He lashed out against “left-wing opposition groups” and others during the recent Senate hearing over a high school-era sexual assault allegation, raising questions about whether he can be impartial deciding cases that revolve around Democratic policies or that directly involve Democratic officials.

Kavanaugh already was known as a conservative judge. But his partisan rhetoric created new worries for some who will bring or support cases that eventually could come before the nation’s highest court.

“I have even greater concerns about his judicial temperament and his ability to independently weigh cases that may involve the Trump administration,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat who has joined more than a dozen lawsuits against the administration.

Democratic states are in scores of legal battles with the Trump administration over health care, the environment, consumer protections, immigration and other issues. Marquette University political scientist Paul Nolette has tallied 61 times that states have banded together in lawsuits against the Trump administration.

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Pompeo cites progress made with Kim Jong Un on N. Korea trip

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made unspecified progress Sunday toward an agreement for the North to give up its nuclear weapons, though there was no immediate indication whether Pompeo had managed to arrange a much-anticipated second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.

Trump, tweeting from Washington, cited progress on agreements he made with Kim at their June meeting in Singapore and said, “I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim again, in the near future.”

North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA said Kim had “expressed his will and conviction that a great progress would surely be made in solving the issues of utmost concern of the world and in attaining the goal set forth at the last talks with the projected second DPRK-U.S. summit talks as an occasion.” DPRK is the acronym for the country’s official name: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In an early Monday dispatch, the Korean Central News Agency called the talks “productive and wonderful” and said that “mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged.”

Arriving in Seoul after several hours in Pyongyang on his fourth visit to North Korea, Pompeo said Sunday he had a “good trip” and that he and Kim “continue to make progress on agreements made at the Singapore summit.”

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Trump refugee policy leaves thousands stranded outside US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Death threats drove Hadi Mohammed out of Iraq and to a small apartment in Nebraska, where he and his two young sons managed to settle as refugees. But the danger hasn’t been enough to allow his wife to join them.

Mohammed, who worked as a security guard for the U.S. military in Baghdad, says he was initially told his wife would be reunited with him and the boys within a month. The wait has now dragged on for more than a year as she goes through stricter screening imposed by the Trump administration.

Mohammed says it’s been an agonizing wait, especially for his 9-year-old son. “Every night he cries about mom, I need mom,” he said in halting English as he sat on a couch with the boy in their apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Tens of thousands of people are experiencing similar anguished waits as the number of refugees entering the U.S. falls to historic lows because of tighter scrutiny that administration officials say is necessary for security. Critics say it amounts to an abandonment of the country’s historic humanitarian role and discriminates against certain groups, particularly Muslims.

The U.S. admitted 22,491 refugees in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. That’s one-quarter of the number allowed to enter two years ago and the lowest since Congress passed a law in 1980 creating the modern resettlement system.

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