Trump says ‘not much headway’ in talks as shutdown drags on
WASHINGTON (AP) — White House officials and congressional aides emerged from talks to reopen the government without a breakthrough Saturday, though they planned to return to the table the following day.
President Donald Trump tweeted: “Not much headway made today.” The president later tweeted that he planned to go to his retreat at Camp David, Maryland, on Sunday morning to discuss borders security and other topics with senior staff.
Democrats agreed there had been little movement Saturday, saying the White House did not budge on the president’s key demand, $5.6 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The White House said funding was not discussed in-depth, but the administration was clear they needed funding for a wall and that they wanted to resolve the shutdown all at once.
Accusations flew after the more than two-hour session led by Vice President Mike Pence. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” accused Democrats of being there to “stall.” Democrats familiar with the meeting said the White House position was “untenable.”
National parks struggle to stay open, safe during shutdown
Nonprofits, businesses and state governments nationwide are putting up money and volunteer hours in a battle to keep national parks safe and clean for visitors as the partial U.S. government shutdown lingers.
But such makeshift arrangements haven’t prevented some parks from closing and others from being inundated with trash. Support groups say donations of money and time could run short if the budget impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats lasts much longer. Some are calling for parks to close for the duration of the standoff, which Trump said Friday could last “months or even years.”
“Our national parks deserve better than an improvised patchwork of emergency care,” Diane Regas, CEO of the Trust for Public Lands, said in a letter to Trump that noted reports of theft, poaching and accumulating piles of garbage and human waste. “They need robust funding and full-time protection, or they should be closed.”
Ryan Zinke, who recently stepped down under fire as Interior Department secretary, had ordered many national parks to stay open, saying visitors should not be penalized for the political feud over a border wall with Mexico. During an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke said visitors should take action to keep parks clean.
“Grab a trash bag and take some trash out with you,” he said. “In order to keep them open, everybody has to pitch in.”
Airports seeing rise in security screeners calling off work
NEW YORK (AP) — The federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees calling off work during the partial government shutdown .
Employees of the Transportation Security Administration are expected to work without pay during the shutdown because their jobs are considered essential.
The TSA said in a statement Friday that call outs that began over the holiday period have increased. The agency did not say how many of its employees have called out, but it said the call outs have had “minimal impact given that there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process.” The statement said wait times “may be affected” but so far “remain well within TSA standards.”
“TSA is closely monitoring the situation,” the agency statement said. “Security effectiveness will not be compromised.”
The Department of Homeland Security and President Donald Trump pushed back Saturday on suggestions that the call outs represented a “sickout” that was having significant consequences on U.S. air travel. White House officials and congressional aides were in talks Saturday to end the shutdown, which entered its 15th day. Negotiations are at an impasse over Trump’s demands for $5.6 billion to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
3 killed, 4 injured in California bowling alley shooting
TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — Three men were fatally shot late Friday and four injured when a brawl at a popular Los Angeles-area bowling alley and karaoke bar erupted into gunfire that had terrified patrons, some children, running for their lives.
Police in the coastal city of Torrance responded shortly after midnight to calls of shots fired at the Gable House Bowl. They found seven people with gunshot wounds.
Three men were pronounced dead at the scene and two were taken to a hospital, Sgt. Ronald Harris said. Two other men were struck by gunfire but “opted to seek their own medical attention.”
Authorities have not identified the victims nor suspects or released details about what led to the shooting. Witnesses said it stemmed from a fight between two large groups.
Dwayne Edwards, 60, of Los Angeles, said he received a call from his nephew that his 28-year-old son, Astin Edwards, was one of those killed. His nephew told him his son was attempting to break up a fight when a gunman “just started unloading.”
Russia: Too early to consider exchange of US spy suspect
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s deputy foreign minister brushed back suggestions Saturday that an American being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying could be exchanged for a Russian citizen.
The brother of Paul Whelan, however, tells The Associated Press that he can’t help but question whether the events are indeed connected.
“You look at what’s going on and you wonder if this is just a large game of pieces being moved around,” David Whelan told the AP via Skype from Newmarket, Ontario. “You start to wonder if all of these things are connected. But at the same time, they could just be arbitrary events.”
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds Canadian, British and Irish citizenship, was detained in Moscow in late December. His arrest has led to speculation that Russia could be using him to bargain for a Russian who pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the United States.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a possible swap involving Whelan and Maria Butina would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged, according to Russian news agencies.
Some fear groundwater near Georgia military bases is toxic
ATLANTA (AP) — Groundwater near Georgia military bases remains contaminated from a toxic firefighting foam used for decades by the U.S. Air Force, prompting fears among residents about their exposure to the chemicals.
Recent tests at Georgia’s three air bases show extensive environmental contamination of groundwater, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Environmentalists say that contamination from the foam exposed Georgia communities to chemicals linked to cancer and a variety of other health problems.
The Air Force has said that Georgia’s drinking water is safe for the thousands of people living around its installations.
But experts and nearby residents question those findings, saying the military’s review was too narrow and failed to test water off-base.
Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown dies at 91
WASHINGTON (AP) — Harold Brown, who as defense secretary in the Carter administration championed cutting-edge fighting technology during a tenure that included the failed rescue of hostages in Iran, has died at age 91.
Brown died Friday, said the Rand Corp., the California-based think tank which Brown served as a trustee for more than 35 years. His sister, Leila Brennet, said he died at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California.
Brown was a nuclear physicist who led the Pentagon to modernize its defense systems with weapons that included precision-guided cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, advanced satellite surveillance and improved communications and intelligence systems. He successfully campaigned to increase the Pentagon budget during his term, despite skepticism inside the White House and from Democrats in Congress.
That turbulent period included the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis. An effort in April 1980 to rescue the hostages failed when one of the helicopters on the mission struck a tanker aircraft in eastern Iran and crashed, killing eight U.S. servicemen.
“I considered the failed rescue attempt my greatest regret and most painful lesson learned,” Brown wrote in his book “Star Spangled Security.”
France: Year’s 1st yellow vest event brings tear gas, fires
PARIS (AP) — French security forces fired tear gas and flash-balls after a march through picturesque central Paris went from peaceful to provocative Saturday as several thousand protesters staged the yellow vest movement’s first action of 2019 to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.
A river boat restaurant moored below the clashes on the Left Bank of the Seine River caught fire. Smoke and tear gas wafted above the Orsay Museum and the gold dome of the French Academy as riot police, nearly invisible at the start of the demonstration, moved front and center when protesters deviated from an officially approved path.
Police boats patrolled the river while beyond the Seine, motorcycles and a car were set on fire on the Boulevard Saint Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare. Riot police and firefighters moved in, and barricades mounted in the middle of the wide street also glowed in orange flames.
Protesters made their way to the Champs-Elysees Avenue, the famed boulevard that has been at the center of previous yellow vest demonstrations, many removing their distinctive vests and mixing with shoppers.
Riot police moved in with a water cannon to evacuate the avenue. A line of parked cars burned on a nearby street.
Slain police officer called ‘American hero’ at his funeral
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California police officer who was killed in the line of duty was hailed Saturday as a “Fiji-born American hero” who made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted country.
At a funeral held for Cpl. Ronil (row-neel) Singh, mourners remembered the 33-year-old as a hard-working immigrant who worked his way up to become an officer in the small town of Newman.
He “stood so much for what is right in our world and yet unfortunately was taken too soon from us by what is wrong in our world,” Modesto police Officer Jeff Harmon said at the service in a Modesto church.
He “probably more than anything else wanted to be home on Christmas night with his wife and his young son, but instead made a selfless choice to serve all of his community knowing that there are many more than just his own family that needed his protection that night.”
Singh was shot to death in the early hours of Dec. 26 after he pulled over a suspected drunk driver. The gunman fled, and a two-day-long manhunt led to the arrest of a man who authorities said was in the country illegally and was preparing to flee to Mexico.
Luck has 2 TDs to lead Colts over Texans 21-7 in wild card
HOUSTON (AP) — A year ago at this time Andrew Luck was at home struggling with an injured shoulder that cost him the entire season.
On Saturday he wrote a happy ending to the latest chapter of his comeback season, throwing for 222 yards and two touchdowns and the Indianapolis Colts raced out to a big lead and cruised to a 21-7 win over the Houston Texans in the wild-card game.
Luck put on a show in his hometown in a stadium where he’d attended games throughout childhood and played in them since high school, throwing for 191 yards and two touchdowns before halftime to help the Colts (11-6) build a 21-0 lead.
He denied feeling “at home” at NRG Stadium, but admitted to having warm feelings for the city he grew up in and where his grandparents and many friends still reside.
“But it’s still an away stadium,” he said. “It was very loud, very energetic, but fun to win, certainly.”
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