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

Post-Michael Florida: Fear, frustration and life on the edge

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Missing relatives and worries that looters are just outside the door. Dirty clothes. Hours-long lines for gasoline, insurance adjusters, food and water. No power, no air conditioning, no schools, no information and little real improvement in sight.

Daily life is a series of fears and frustrations, both large and small, for thousands of people living on the edge, more than a week after Hurricane Michael flattened thousands of square miles in the hurricane zone of the Florida Panhandle.

Erin Maxwell waited in line for fuel for more than an hour Thursday at a gasoline station that never opened. “I’m tired and want to go to sleep. I don’t want to wait in another line,” said Maxwell, eyes closed and her head tilted back on the seat.

Meanwhile, husband Mickey Calhoun fretted over the fate of his mother, Anita Newsome, 74. The retired sheriff’s deputy was last seen when officers took her to a hospital the day before Michael made landfall, her son said.

“We can’t find her or get word anywhere,” said an exasperated Calhoun, 54, wearing stained khaki pants and a dingy towel draped around his neck.

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Trump concedes Khashoggi likely dead, threatens consequences

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump acknowledged Thursday it “certainly looks” as though missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and he threatened “very severe” consequences if the Saudis are found to have murdered him. His warning came as the administration toughened its response to a disappearance that has sparked global outrage.

Before Trump spoke, the administration announced that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had pulled out of a major upcoming Saudi investment conference and a U.S. official said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned the Saudi crown prince that his credibility as a future leader is at stake.

Pompeo said the Saudis should be given a few more days to finish and make public a credible investigation before the U.S. decides “how or if” to respond. Trump’s comments, however, signaled an urgency in completing the probe into the disappearance of the journalist, last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The messaging underscored the administration’s concern about the effect the case could have on relations with a close and valuable strategic partner. Increasingly upset U.S. lawmakers are condemning the Saudis and questioning the seriousness with which Trump and his top aides are taking the matter, while Trump has emphasized the billions of dollars in weapons the Saudis purchase from the United States.

Turkish reports say Khashoggi, who had written columns critical of the Saudi government for The Washington Post over the past year while he lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S., was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by members of an assassination squad with ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis have dismissed those reports as baseless but have yet to explain what happened to the writer.

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Trump says without evidence that Dems are behind ‘caravan’

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — President Donald Trump suggested without evidence Thursday that Democrats or their allies are supporting a “caravan” of Central American migrants who are traveling north aiming to enter the United States.

Addressing thousands of supporters at a campaign rally in Montana, Trump said immigration is now one of the leading issues in the 2018 midterms, and he accused Democrats of supporting the migrants because they “figure everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat.”

The comments mark the injection of one of Trump’s signature 2016 campaign themes back into national conversation as he looks to boost Republican turnout to maintain their congressional majorities in 2018.

Trump was in Montana to boost GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, who is running against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester — a lawmaker the president says has been a “disaster for Montana.”

The president blames Tester for the backlash against former White House doctor Adm. Ronny Jackson, whom the president had tapped to serve as Veterans Affairs secretary. Jackson was forced to withdraw after facing ethics allegations, including claims that he got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle at a Secret Service going-away party. Tester had released a list of allegations against Jackson that was compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

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Pressure turns to Mexico as migrant caravan heads for border

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — As some 3,000 Hondurans made their way through Guatemala, attention turned to Mexico, after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to close the U.S.-Mexico border if authorities there fail to stop them — a nearly unthinkable move that would disrupt hundreds of thousands of legal freight, vehicle and pedestrian crossings each day.

With less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Trump seized on the migrant caravan to make border security a political issue and energize his Republican base.

“I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught — and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” Trump tweeted, adding that he blamed Democrats for what he called “weak laws!”

The threat followed another one earlier this week to cut off aid to Central American countries if the migrants weren’t stopped. Trump made a similar vow over another large migrant caravan in April, but didn’t follow through and it largely petered out in Mexico.

On Thursday, Mexico’s foreign ministry said the government was assisting members of the caravan who had already crossed into Mexican territory. It was explaining the options to migrants and helping those who chose to apply for refugee status to navigate the lengthy process.

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Federal prosecutors open clergy abuse probe in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, using subpoenas to demand secret files and testimony from high-ranking leaders in what victims’ advocates say is the first such probe ever launched by the U.S. Justice Department.

The subpoenas, served last week, follow a scathing state grand jury report over the summer that found that 301 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania had molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades and that church leaders had covered up for the offenders.

The intervention by the federal government opens a new front of legal peril for the Catholic church, given that investigations into sexual abuse by clergy members have historically been handled exclusively by state and local authorities.

“It’s groundbreaking if we’re going to see one of the U.S. attorneys pursuing the Catholic cases,” said Marci Hamilton, a church-state expert at the University of Pennsylvania and chief executive of Child USA, a nonprofit think tank focused on preventing child abuse. “The federal government has so far been utterly silent on the Catholic cases.”

At least seven of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown and Harrisburg — acknowledged receiving subpoenas and said they would cooperate or were working with Justice Department officials.

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China’s economic growth slows amid trade battle with US

BEIJING (AP) — China’s economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter, adding to challenges for Communist leaders as they fight a tariff battle with Washington.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.5 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, government data showed Friday. That was down from 6.7 percent for the quarter ending in July and 6.8 percent for the year’s first three months.

Forecasters expected China’s economy to cool after Beijing tightened credit controls last year to rein in a debt boom. But the slowdown has been sharper than expected, prompting Chinese leaders to reverse course and encourage banks to lend.

Communist leaders express confidence their $12 trillion-a-year economy can survive the conflict with President Donald Trump. But export industries have begun to suffer from American tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on Chinese goods.

Growth in retail spending and investment, which are much bigger parts of the economy than trade, slowed in the latest quarter, though to still-robust rates.

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Iconic Dodge City moves its only polling place outside town

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Access to the ballot box in November will be more difficult for some people in Dodge City, where Hispanics now make up 60 percent of its population and have remade an iconic Wild West town that once was the destination of cowboys and buffalo hunters who frequented the Long Branch Saloon.

At a time when many rural towns are slowly dying, the arrival of two massive meatpacking plants boosted Dodge City’s economy and transformed its demographics as immigrants from Mexico and other countries flooded in to fill those jobs.

But the city located 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Wichita has only one polling site for its 27,000 residents. Since 2002, the lone site was at the civic center just blocks from the local country club — in the wealthy, white part of town. For this November’s election, local officials have moved it outside the city limits to a facility more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, citing road construction that blocked the previous site.

“It is shocking that we only have one polling place, but that is only kind of scratching the surface of the problem,” said Johnny Dunlap, chairman of the Ford County Democratic Party. “On top of that, not only is it irrational and ridiculous that we have only one polling place, but Dodge City is one of the few minority majority cities in the state.”

A Democratic Party database compiled from state voter data shows Hispanic turnout during non-presidential elections is just 17 percent compared to 61 percent turnout for white voters in Ford County in 2014.

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StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony price fixing charge as part of a broad collusion investigation of the canned tuna industry, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The DOJ said StarKist faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced. Prosecutors allege that the industry’s top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

“We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” said StarKist chief executive Andrew Choe. “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.”

The scheme came to light when Thai Union Group’s Chicken of the Sea attempt to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who agreed to shield the company from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine, $111 million lower than prosecutors said it should have been. Prosecutors said they feared putting the financially struggling Bumble Bee out of business with a high fine and agreed to let the company make interest-free payments for five years.

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Booker stirs South Carolina Democrats in pre-midterm debut

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — Cory Booker had hundreds of Democratic activists nodding, applauding and eventually roaring — complete with a sermon-style call-and-response — as he entertained the Orangeburg County party barbecue to put the exclamation point on his first day in South Carolina as a potential presidential contender.

The New Jersey senator’s two-day swing to the South’s first primary state is ostensibly about the upcoming midterm elections. But Booker’s visit — like California Sen. Kamala Harris’s trip to follow on Friday — is heavy with the overtones of a looming Democratic free-for-all as the party looks for a leader to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

“Excellent job, hit all the points: health care, prejudice, young people killing each other, all of it,” said Nathaniel McFadden, 59, after Booker’s spent 15 minutes on stage at the Orangeburg County Democratic Party’s annual gala.

Johnny Spells, a 60-year-old local businessman, went higher with his praise. “He reminds me of a young Barack Obama. And write this down: He’s the next president of the United States.”

There’s a long way to go before Spells can know whether he’s prescient or just smitten. Booker said himself he won’t decide his next move until after the Nov. 6 midterms.

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Wet and mild: Warm winter predicted for much of the US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Winter looks wet and especially mild for much of the country, thanks to a weak El Nino brewing, U.S. meteorologists said.

The National Weather Service on Thursday predicted a warmer than normal winter for the northern and western three-quarters of the nation. The greatest chance for warmer than normal winter weather is in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota.

No place in the United States is expected to be colder than normal, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the government’s Climate Prediction Center.

The Southeast, Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic can go any which way on temperature, Halpert said.

Overall the winter looks a lot like the last few, Halpert said.

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