GOP US Sen. Hyde-Smith wins divisive runoff, keeps her seat
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive Mississippi runoff Tuesday, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist and defeating a former federal official who hoped to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.
The runoff was rocked by the video, in which Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” A separate video showed her talking about “liberal folks” and making it “just a little more difficult” for them to vote.
The comments by Hyde-Smith, who is white, made Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings a theme of the runoff and spurred many black voters to return to the polls Tuesday.
In the aftermath of the video, Republicans worried they could face a repeat of last year’s special election in Alabama, in which a flawed Republican candidate handed Democrats a reliable GOP Senate seat in the Deep South. The GOP pumped resources into Mississippi, and President Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in Mississippi on Monday.
Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown. They also stuck by her as a photo was circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
Pilots struggled to control plane that crashed in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Black box data show Lion Air pilots struggled to maintain control of a Boeing jet as its automatic safety system repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down, according to a draft of a preliminary report by Indonesian authorities investigating last month’s deadly crash.
The investigators are focusing on whether faulty information from sensors led the plane’s system to force the nose down. The new Boeing 737 MAX 8 plunged into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, killing all 189 people on board.
Information from the Lion Air jet’s flight data recorder was included in a briefing for the Indonesian Parliament.
Indonesian authorities were due to release the findings Wednesday but not to draw conclusions from the data they present.
Peter Lemme, an expert in aviation and satellite communications and a former Boeing engineer, wrote an analysis of the data on his blog.
Manafort allegations throw new uncertainty into Russia probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — The breakdown of a plea deal with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an explosive British news report about alleged contacts he may have had with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange threw a new element of uncertainty into the Trump-Russia investigation Tuesday.
A day after prosecutors accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to them, trashing his agreement to tell all in return for a lighter sentence, he adamantly denied a report in the Guardian that he had met secretly with Assange around March 2016. That’s the same month Manafort joined the Trump campaign and Russian hackers began an effort to penetrate the email accounts of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The developments thrust Manafort back into the investigation spotlight, raising new questions about what he knows and what prosecutors say he might be attempting to conceal as they probe Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates in the campaign that sent the celebrity businessman to the White House.
All the while, Manafort’s lawyers have been briefing Trump’s attorneys on what their client has told investigators, a highly unusual arrangement that could give Trump ammunition in his feud against special counsel Robert Mueller.
“They share with me the things that pertain to our part of the case,” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press.
US waived FBI checks on staff at growing teen migrant camp
TORNILLO, Texas (AP) — The Trump administration has put the safety of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp at risk by waiving FBI fingerprint checks for their caregivers and short-staffing mental health workers, according to an Associated Press investigation and a new federal watchdog report.
None of the 2,100 staffers at a tent city holding more than 2,300 teens in the remote Texas desert are going through rigorous FBI fingerprint background checks, according to a Health and Human Services inspector general memo published Tuesday.
“Instead, Tornillo is using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children,” the memo says.
In addition, the federal government is allowing the nonprofit running the facility — BCFS Health and Human Services — to sidestep mental health care requirements. Under federal policy, migrant youth shelters generally must have one mental health clinician for every 12 kids, but the federal agency’s contract with BCFS allows it to staff Tornillo with just one clinician for every 100 children. That’s not enough to provide adequate mental health care, the inspector general office said in the memo.
BCFS acknowledged to the AP that it currently has one mental health clinician for every 50 children at Tornillo.
US doctor warns against backlash to gene-edited baby claim
HONG KONG (AP) — A prominent American scientist is warning against a backlash to the claim that a Chinese scientist has helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies.
Harvard Medical School dean Dr. George Daley says it would be unfortunate if a misstep with a first case led scientists and regulators to reject the good that could come from altering DNA to treat or prevent diseases.
Daley spoke Wednesday at an international conference in Hong Kong, where the Chinese scientist, He Jiankui (HEH JEE-ahn-qway) of Shenzhen, also is scheduled to speak.
He says his lab used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to alter the DNA of human embryos to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus. He said twin girls with the altered genes were born earlier this month.
There is not yet independent confirmation of his claim, but scientists and regulators have been swift to condemn the experiment as unethical and unscientific.
Angry over cutbacks, Trump threatens to end subsidies to GM
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political muscle as he threatened Tuesday to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the U.S.
Trump unloaded on Twitter a day after GM announced it would shutter five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president’s willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.
“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland” while sparing plants in Mexico & China, Trump tweeted, adding: “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”
Trump’s tweets followed a short time after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House’s reaction to the automaker’s announcement was “a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger.” Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.
“Look, we made this deal, we’ve worked with you along the way, we’ve done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations,” Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “We’ve done this to help you and I think his disappointment is, it seems like they kind of turned their back on him.”
Bolton defends not listening to Khashoggi tape
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Tuesday defended his decision not to listen to an audio recording of the killing of a Saudi journalist, saying he chose not to listen because he doesn’t speak Arabic.
“What am I going to learn from — if they were speaking Korean, I wouldn’t learn any more from it either,” John Bolton told journalists at a White House briefing. Bolton added he was able to get all the information he needed by reading a transcript of the recording.
“People who speak Arabic have listened to the tape and they have given us the substance of what’s in it,” Bolton said. When pressed on the issue, Bolton said he believed he has a full understanding of what is on the audio recording. “I’m very satisfied that we know what the tape picked up and it was factored into the president’s decision and he’s announced his position very clearly,” he said.
The audio recording quickly emerged as a key piece of evidence amid conflicting accounts of Jamal Khashsoggi’s murder at a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in October. Saudi officials initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate before later saying he was killed in a botched operation aimed at forcibly bringing the writer back to the kingdom.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known about the plot to kill Khashoggi, prompting calls by many in Congress for the U.S. to take a tougher stance with the key Gulf ally.
Mexico accepts housing migrants, seeks US development aid
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — As Mexico wrestles with what to do with more than 5,000 Central American migrants camped out at a sports complex in the border city of Tijuana, President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government signaled Tuesday that it would be willing to house the migrants on Mexican soil while they apply for asylum in the United States — a key demand of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Mexico’s new foreign minister also called on the Trump administration to contribute to development projects to help create jobs in Central America to stem the flow of migrants from the impoverished region, suggesting an appropriate figure would start at $20 billion.
“We cannot determine at what pace people are interviewed” by U.S. officials as part of the asylum process, the incoming foreign relations secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, told a news conference in Mexico City. U.S. border inspectors are processing fewer than 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego, creating a backlog of thousands.
“So, what do we have to do?” Ebrard asked. “Prepare ourselves to assume that a good part of them are going to be in this area of Mexico for the coming months.”
“We have to support local authorities” in housing and feeding the migrants, he said, adding: “That is not a bilateral negotiation. That is something we have to do.”
Apple’s stock sours, Microsoft’s soars. Say what?!
Wall Street investors are enamored with a newly emergent tech company.
It has nothing to do with posting selfies or finding a soul mate. The company is instead making billions of dollars selling cloud-computing and other technical services to offices around the world.
Say hello to Microsoft, the 1990s home-computing powerhouse that is having a renaissance moment – eclipsing Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other tech darlings of the late decade.
And now it is close to surpassing Apple as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.
Yes, that Microsoft. As other tech giants stumble, its steady resilience is paying off.
Fox disciplines employees who set up Trump aide appearance
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel said Tuesday that it is disciplining employees involved in an email exchange with an aide to President Trump’s former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to craft a “Fox & Friends” interview with the environmental chief last year.
The emails showed one of Pruitt’s aides suggesting the interview, passing along “talking points” and given the chance by a Fox producer to approve a script written to introduce Pruitt.
The messages were uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club and first reported by The Daily Beast. It’s another example of closeness between Fox News and the Trump administration, where the president’s communications director is a former Fox executive. Fox’s most popular personality, Sean Hannity, appeared onstage at a Trump rally shortly before the midterm election.
Fox would not say who was being disciplined, noting that it was a personnel matter, and what that discipline involved. Earlier, the network had said that “this is not standard practice whatsoever and the matter is being addressed internally with those involved.”
In May 2017, former Environmental Protection Agency press representative Amy Graham wrote to Fox, saying Pruitt would be in New York and able to come to Fox’s studio to talk about reforms Pruitt was making to help communities poorly served by President Barack Obama’s administration.
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