Venezuelan aid convoys meet fierce resistance; 2 killed
CUCUTA, Colombia (AP) — A U.S.-backed campaign to force President Nicolas Maduro from power met strong resistance Saturday from Venezuelan security forces who fired tear gas on protesters trying to deliver humanitarian aid from Colombia and Brazil, leaving two people dead and some 300 injured.
Throughout the turbulent day, as police and protesters squared off on two bridges connecting Venezuela to Colombia, opposition leader Juan Guaido made repeated calls for the military to join him in the fight against Maduro’s “dictatorship.” Colombian authorities said more than 60 soldiers answered his call, deserting their posts in often-gripping fashion, though most were lower in rank and didn’t appear to dent the higher command’s continued loyalty to Maduro’s socialist government.
In one dramatic high point, a group of activists led by exiled lawmakers managed to escort three flatbed trucks of aid past the halfway point into Venezuela when they were repelled by security forces. In a flash the cargo caught fire, with some eyewitnesses claiming the National Guardsmen doused a tarp covering the boxes with gas before setting it on fire. As a black cloud rose above, the activists — protecting their faces from the fumes with vinegar-soaked cloths — unloaded the boxes by hand in a human chain stretching back to the Colombian side of the bridge.
“They burned the aid and fired on their own people,” said 39-year-old David Hernandez, who was hit in the forehead with a tear gas canister that left a bloody wound and growing welt. “That’s the definition of dictatorship.”
For weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and its regional allies have been amassing emergency food and medical supplies on three of Venezuela’s borders with the aim of launching a “humanitarian avalanche.” It comes exactly one month after Guaido, in a direct challenge to Maduro’s rule, declared himself interim president at an outdoor rally.
Southern storms, flooding, tornado in east Mississippi city
COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — A tornado smashed into a commercial district in the small Mississippi city of Columbus on Saturday afternoon, shattering businesses as severe storms raked the South amid days of drenching rains and a rising flood threat.
The tornado struck about 5 p.m. in the east Mississippi city and was confirmed on radar, said meteorologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service in Jackson. She said by by phone with The Associated Press that a team would go to the city of about 23,000 people Sunday to gauge the tornado’s intensity.
There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries.
Lee Lawrence, who said he has been selling used cars for decades in Columbus, told The AP that four buildings on his car lot had been destroyed. He said trees toppled across vehicles and car windows had been blown out. And he said he had no idea about how badly his collection of antique cars fared.
He said he was at home getting ready to take a bath when the storm struck.
Prosecutors paint dark portrait of manipulative R. Kelly
CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors on Saturday painted a dark portrait of a manipulative and sometimes violent R. Kelly, describing how he repeatedly sought out underage girls for sex, including one he encountered at her 16th birthday party and another who met the R&B star while he was on trial for child pornography.
The accounts emerged as Kelly made his first court appearance since being accused of sexually abusing four people in a case that could produce another #MeToo reckoning for a celebrity.
A judge gave Kelly a chance to go free while awaiting trial, setting bond at $1 million. That means the 52-year-old Grammy winner must post $100,000 to be released or remain behind bars until he is tried on the allegations that date back as far as 1998 and span more than a decade.
The prosecution released four documents — one for each accuser — outlining the basis for the charges.
A 16-year-old girl reported meeting Kelly in 1998 at a restaurant where she was having a birthday party. Kelly’s manager gave her the singer’s business card and suggested she call Kelly. The girl’s mother heard the exchange, took the card and told the manager her daughter was 16. But her daughter later retrieved the card from her purse. She contacted Kelly, who gave her instructions and money that she assumed was for the taxi fare to his studio, where they had sex periodically for a year, the documents said.
Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump was in full deflection mode.
The Democrats had blamed Russia for the hacking and release of damaging material on his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump wasn’t buying it. But on July 27, 2016, midway through a news conference in Florida, Trump decided to entertain the thought for a moment.
“Russia, if you’re listening,” said Trump, looking directly into a television camera, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” — messages Clinton was reported to have deleted from her private email server.
Actually, Russia was doing more than listening: It had been trying to help Republican Trump for months. That very day, hackers working with Russia’s military intelligence tried to break into email accounts associated with Clinton’s personal office.
It was just one small part of a sophisticated election interference operation carried out by the Kremlin — and meticulously chronicled by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller: Manafort ‘brazenly violated the law’ for years
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort committed crimes that cut to “the heart of the criminal justice system” and over the years deceived everyone from bookkeepers and banks to federal prosecutors and his own lawyers, according to a sentencing memo filed Saturday by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
In the memo, submitted in one of two criminal cases Manafort faces, prosecutors do not yet take a position on how much prison time he should serve or whether to stack the punishment on top of a separate sentence he will soon receive in a Virginia prosecution. But they do depict Manafort as a longtime and unrepentant criminal who committed “bold” crimes, including under the spotlight of his role as campaign chairman and later while on bail, and who does not deserve any leniency.
“For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” prosecutors wrote. “His crimes continued up through the time he was first indicted in October 2017 and remarkably went unabated even after indictment.”
Citing Manafort’s lies to the FBI, several government agencies and his own lawyer, prosecutors said that “upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism.”
The 25-page memo, filed in federal court in Washington, is likely the last major filing by prosecutors as Manafort heads into his sentencing hearings next month and as Mueller’s investigation approaches a conclusion. Manafort, who has been jailed for months and turns 70 in April, will have a chance to file his own sentencing recommendation next week. He and his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, were the first two people indicted in the special counsel’s investigation. Overall, Mueller has produced charges against 34 individuals, including six former Trump aides, and three companies.
Biden’s 2020 opening? Dem field missing foreign policy hand
WASHINGTON (AP) — In town halls, television interviews and social media posts, Democratic presidential candidates are touting their support for “Medicare-for-all,” higher taxes on the wealthy and a war on climate change. But foreign policy, one of the chief responsibilities of a president, is largely taking a back seat on the campaign trail.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is seizing on that opening to position himself as the sole global policy expert in a crowded Democratic field if he decides to run for president.
In a series of speeches over the past month, Biden portrayed himself as an authoritative counterweight to President Donald Trump’s isolationist and nationalistic impulses. Last week, he told an audience in Germany that his vision of America “stands up to the aggression of dictators.” The problems of the 21st century, he later said at the University of Pennsylvania, can’t be solved “without there being cooperation.” His advisers have endorsed his foreign policy credentials to key political operatives and allies in early-voting states.
The moves reflect the vulnerabilities Biden, a 76-year-old firmly aligned with the Democratic establishment, could exploit in a crowded primary with rivals who are decades younger and working overtime to appeal to the party’s liberal base. In that kind of race, Biden could carve out space as a battle-tested statesman with the experience to stabilize America’s role in the world.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who has already pledged to support Biden over home-state colleague Kamala Harris, recently summed up his advantage: “Huge international experience,” she told reporters. “And a knowledge that’s really unparalleled in terms of what’s happening in the world.”
Sheriff: No likely survivors in jetliner crash near Houston
HOUSTON (AP) — A Boeing 767 cargo jetliner heading to Houston with three people aboard disintegrated after crashing Saturday into a bay east of the city, according to a Texas sheriff.
Witnesses told emergency personnel that the twin-engine plane “went in nose first,” leaving a debris field three-quarters of a mile long in Trinity Bay, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said.
“It’s probably a crash that nobody would survive,” he said, referring to the scene as “total devastation.”
The cargo plane made a steep descent shortly before 12:45 p.m. from 6,525 feet to 3,025 feet in 30 seconds, according to tracking data from FlightAware.com.
The flight was being operated for Amazon by Atlas Air, according to a statement from the airline. “Our main priority at this time is caring for those affected and we will ensure we do all we can to support them now and in the days and weeks to come,” Atlas Air said in a statement.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un boards train to summit
DANDONG, China (AP) — North Korea leader Kim Jong Un was on a train Sunday to Vietnam for his second summit with President Donald Trump, state media confirmed.
Kim was accompanied by Kim Yong Chol, who has been a key negotiator in talks with the U.S., and Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s sister, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported. TV footage and photos distributed by the North’s state-run news agency showed Kim inspecting a guard of honor at the Pyongyang station before waving from the train.
Late Saturday, an Associated Press reporter saw a green-and-yellow train similar to one used in the past by Kim cross into the Chinese border city of Dandong via a bridge.
The Trump-Kim meeting is slated for Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi.
Their first summit last June in Singapore ended without substantive agreements on the North’s nuclear disarmament and triggered a months-long stalemate in negotiations as Washington and Pyongyang struggled with the sequencing of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and the removal of U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
‘Beale Street’ tops Spirit Awards, Close wins best actress
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Two years after his “Moonlight” triumphed on the eve of the Oscars, Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of the James Baldwin novel “If Beale Street Could Talk” on Saturday topped the 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards, winning best film, best director and best supporting female for Regina King.
The Spirit Awards, always a casual, oceanside preamble to Sunday’s Academy Awards, featured a few things the Oscars don’t have: a host (actress Aubrey Plaza) and female filmmaker nominees, including Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”), Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”) and Lynne Ramsey (“You Were Never Really Here”).
But as much as the afternoon belonged to women, Jenkins’ lyrical period drama emerged the biggest winner two years after his “Moonlight” won at the Spirits and (despite a touch of trouble with the envelopes) at the Oscars. Given his fellow nominees, even Jenkins was sheepish about it.
“I’m not gonna lie, man,” said Jenkins accepting the directing award. “I didn’t want to win this.”
Jenkins used his speech to instead largely urge more movies to be made with female directors and specifically credited the Scottish filmmaker Ramsey — who encouraged a Jenkins as a film student — for inspiration. “This award has your DNA in it,” Jenkins said.
Ole Miss players kneel in response to Confederacy rally
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Eight University of Mississippi basketball players kneeled during the national anthem Saturday before a victory over Georgia in response to a Confederacy rally near the arena.
With the teams lined up across the court at the free throw lines, six players took a knee and bowed at the start of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Two other players later joined them.
“The majority of it was just that we saw one of our teammates doing it and didn’t want him to be alone,” Ole Miss scoring leader Breein Tyree said. “We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus like we have these hate groups in our actual school.”
The Confederacy demonstration took place a few hundred feet from the arena. In the aftermath of violence at a similar rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Oxford community has been on alert.
Various student groups held counter-protests on campus Thursday and Friday. Saturday’s march, led by Pro-Confederate groups Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen, also drew counter-protesters. The march began at the Confederate monument on the city square and ended at another Confederate monument in the heart of the Ole Miss campus.
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