At least 14 dead on day of tornadoes, severe storms in South
BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — An apparent tornado roared into southeast Alabama and killed at least 14 people and injured several others Sunday, part of a severe storm system that destroyed homes, snapped trees and unleashed other tornadoes around the Southeast.
“I can confirm 14 fatalities,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told The Associated Press on the scene in Beauregard, the area of apparently greatest destruction. He told reporters that children were among the dead and that some people are still believed missing and that a search and rescue operation was ongoing in that community about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Montgomery, Alabama’s capital city.
“Unfortunately we believe that number is going to go up,” Jones said of the fatalities. He said the apparent twister traveled straight down a key local artery in Beauregard and that the path of damage and destruction appeared at least a half mile wide. He said single-family homes and mobile homes were destroyed. He had told reporters earlier that several people were taken to hospitals, some with “very serious injuries.”
Dozens of emergency responders rushed to join search and rescue efforts in hard-hit Lee County after what forecasters said they think was a large tornado touched down Sunday afternoon, unleashed by a powerful storm system that also slashed its way across parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
Radar and video evidence showed what looked like a large tornado crossing the area near Beauregard shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, said meteorologist Meredith Wyatt with the Birmingham, Alabama, office of the National Weather Service.
Brother of man killed by police wants Calif. to prosecute
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The brother of a black man shot to death by police said Sunday he wants to see the officers who fired the fatal bullets held accountable
Stevante Clark called on California’s attorney general to prosecute them after the local district attorney declined to do so. He told reporters his family was devastated, first by his brother Stephon’s killing last March as he held a cellphone, and again Saturday when Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced the officers would not be charged.
“Our lives are suffering, our hearts are shattered, my family is in agony ever since the callous murder of my brother in my grandmother’s backyard,” the soft-spoken Clark told a news conference attended by his family and friends.
“I would like for the attorney general to prosecute the officers,” he added. “I want justice and accountability.”
Earlier Sunday the family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC program that state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is expected to release the findings of his own investigation into the shooting on March 18.
Senate seems to have votes to reject Trump’s wall move
WASHINGTON (AP) — Opponents of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border appear to have enough Senate votes to reject his move, now that Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he can’t go along with the White House.
The House has voted to derail the action, and if the Senate follows later this month, the measure would go to Trump for his promised veto.
Three other Republican senators have announced they’ll vote “no” — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Paul makes it four, and assuming that all 47 Democrats and their independent allies go against Trump, that would give opponents 51 votes — just past the majority needed.
Congress is unlikely to have the votes to override.
“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul said at a GOP dinner Saturday night at Western Kentucky University, according to the Bowling Green (Ky.) Daily News.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s epic speech is laced with fabrication
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump uttered a dizzying number of false statements in his epically long weekend speech, to an audience that didn’t seem to mind at all.
He got the unemployment rate wrong. He misstated his winning margin in the election. He reprised some of his most frequently told fictions and dusted off old ones, even going back to the size of his inauguration crowd.
A look at some of his words in his two-hour-plus speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday:
TRUMP: “We’re down to 3.7 percent unemployment, the lowest number in a long time.”
House to query 60 Trump officials in obstruction probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring it’s “very clear” President Donald Trump obstructed justice, the chairman of the House committee that would be in charge of impeachment says the panel is requesting documents Monday from more than 60 people from Trump’s administration, family and business as part of a rapidly expanding Russia investigation.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the House Judiciary Committee wants to review documents from the Justice Department, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn also are likely targets, he said.
“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice,” Nadler said. “We will do everything we can to get that evidence.”
Asked if he believed Trump obstructed justice, Nadler said, “Yes, I do.”
Nadler isn’t calling the inquiry an impeachment investigation but said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability.”
On Selma anniversary, Booker calls for new fight for justice
SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Thunder rolling above Brown Chapel AME Church, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker warned Sunday of a looming threat to American democracy and called for protecting the legacy of the civil rights movement with love and action.
“It’s time for us to defend the dream,” Booker said in a keynote speech at Brown Chapel, which two generations ago was the starting point of a peaceful demonstration in support of voting rights that ended in beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The infamous “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965, galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.
“It’s time that we dare to dream again in America. That is what it takes to make America great. It is up to us to do the work that makes the dream real,” said Booker, a New Jersey senator and one of three White House hopefuls who participated in events commemorating the march.
Saying America faces challenges, Booker said: “People want to make it just about the people in the highest offices of the land. . People who traffic in hatred, people in office that defend Nazis or white supremacists, people that point fingers and forget the lessons of King. What we must repent for are not just the vitriolic words and actions of bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of good people.”
Also visiting Selma on Sunday were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Joining them was Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in 2016. Booker and Brown, along with Clinton and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, marched with dozens of others Sunday afternoon to Edmund Pettus Bridge. Sanders had left for a campaign event in Chicago.
Xi firmly in charge as China turns to legislative season
BEIJING (AP) — A year since removing any legal barrier to remaining China’s leader for life, Xi Jinping appears firmly in charge, despite a slowing economy, an ongoing trade war with the U.S. and rumbles of discontent over his concentration of power.
The Chinese president and head of the ruling Communist Party wields more authority than any leader since Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and looms large over the annual legislative session that starts Tuesday.
Since assuming the party helm in 2012, Xi has eliminated rival factions, gutted civil society and brought the party under his firm control through a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign and the opening of party committees in private businesses and foreign companies.
Which is not to say Xi is resting on his achievements. Instead, with the economy’s go-go years firmly in the past, he is warning of increasing headwinds the party faces.
Xi, who gives few news conferences and whose public addresses are limited to a handful of special occasions, told senior party officials last month that “global sources of turmoil and risks have increased and the external environment is complicated and grim.”
US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission
JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.
For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.
The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.
The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.
“This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A sleek new American-built capsule with just a test dummy aboard docked smoothly with the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing the U.S. a big step closer to getting back in the business of launching astronauts.
The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station nearly 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position.
Dragon’s arrival marked the first time in eight years that an American-made spacecraft capable of carrying humans has flown to the space station.
If this six-day test flight goes well, a Dragon capsule could take two NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost this summer.
“A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “Congratulations to all for this historic achievement getting us closer to flying American Astronauts on American rockets.”
IS fighters put up fierce resistance to defend last pocket
BAGHOUZ, Syria (AP) — Islamic State militants are desperately fighting to hang on to the last tiny piece of territory they hold on the riverside in eastern Syria, deploying snipers, guided missiles and surprise tunnel attacks. The resistance prompted a fierce pounding Sunday by the U.S-led coalition and its ground allies in their final push to end the extremist group’s territorial hold.
Rings of black smoke billowed over the besieged speck of land still controlled by the group in the village of Baghouz, after airstrikes hit several targets.
Mortar rounds from a hill overlooking a tent encampment where the militants are still holed up rang into the night.
The U.S.-backed force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces resumed an offensive to recapture the area in Baghouz on Friday night, after a two-week pause to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the area. Retaking the sliver of land would be a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to end IS’ self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate that once straddled vast territory across Syria and Iraq.
The group continues to be a threat, however, with sleeper cells in scattered desert pockets along the porous border between the two countries.
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