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

In reversal, Biden opposes ban on federal money for abortion

ATLANTA (AP) — After two days of intense criticism, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reversed course Thursday and declared that he no longer supports a long-standing congressional ban on using federal health care money to pay for abortions.

“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment” that makes it harder for some women to access care, Biden said at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Atlanta.

The former vice president’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment came after rivals and women’s rights groups blasted him for affirming through campaign aides that he still supported the decades-old budget provision. The dynamics had been certain to flare up again at Democrats’ first primary debate in three weeks.

Biden didn’t mention this week’s attacks, saying his decision was about health care, not politics. Yet the circumstances highlight the risks for a 76-year-old former vice president who’s running as more of a centrist in a party where some skeptical activists openly question whether he can be the party standard-bearer in 2020.

And Biden’s explanation tacitly repeated his critics’ arguments that the Hyde Amendment is another abortion barrier that disproportionately affects poor women and women of color.

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US opens new mass facility in Texas for migrant children

The federal government is opening a new mass facility to hold migrant children in Texas and considering detaining hundreds more youths on three military bases around the country, adding up to 3,000 new beds to the already overtaxed system.

The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold as many as 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone. Most of the children crossed the border without their parents, escaping violence and corruption in Central America, and are held in government custody while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, Weber said. In January, the government shut down an unlicensed detention camp in the Texas desert under political pressure, and another unlicensed facility called Homestead remains in operation in the Miami suburbs.

“It is our legal requirement to take care of these children so that they are not in Border Patrol facilities,” Weber said. “They will have the services that ORR always provides, which is food, shelter and water.”

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D-Day at 75: Nations honor aging veterans, fallen comrades

OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — Standing on the windswept beaches and bluffs of Normandy, a dwindling number of aging veterans of history’s greatest air and sea invasion received the thanks and praise of a world transformed by their sacrifice.

The mission now, they said, was to honor the dead and keep their memory alive, 75 years after the D-Day operation that portended the end of World War II.

“We know we don’t have much time left, so I tell my story so people know it was because of that generation, because of those guys in this cemetery,” said 99-year-old Steve Melnikoff of Maryland, standing at Colleville-Sur-Mer, where thousands of Americans are buried.

“All these generals with all this brass that don’t mean nothing,” he said. “These guys in the cemetery, they are the heroes.”

Thursday’s anniversary was marked with eloquent speeches, profound silences and passionate pleas for an end to bloodshed.

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Trump, often a critic of alliances, hails US D-Day partners

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — President Donald Trump, who has at times questioned the value of NATO and other institutions that emerged from World War II, paid tribute on the 75th anniversary of D-Day to the “cherished alliance” forged in battle by the U.S. and partner nations. To aging warriors gathered on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, he said, “Our debt to you is everlasting.”

Under calm blue skies, Trump underscored the magnitude of the tumultuous June day in 1945:

“Those who fought here won a future for our nation. They won the survival of our civilization, and they showed us the way to love, cherish and defend our way of life for many centuries to come.”

The president stopped mid-speech to gingerly embrace Russell Pickett, a 94-year-old Tennessee man who was wounded in the first wave that came ashore , telling him, “Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence.”

Anniversary tributes aside, questions about Trump’s commitment to Western alliances have been a theme throughout his presidency and trailed him on his visit to Europe. During his stop in England earlier in the week, Queen Elizabeth II used a dinner toast to emphasize the importance of international institutions created by Britain, the United States and other allies after World War II, a subtle rebuttal.

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Doctor killed 25 patients, officials say. Can they prove it?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Prosecutors face a legal hurdle as they pursue 25 murder charges against an Ohio doctor accused of essentially using his colleagues as weapons by ordering fatal painkiller doses for hospital patients but not directly administering them himself, legal experts say.

Critical care doctor William Husel has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Richard Blake, said Husel was trying to provide “comfort care” for dying patients and didn’t intend to hasten their deaths, as prosecutors allege.

If the case goes to trial, legal experts said, a key challenge for prosecutors would be proving that Husel ordered doses without medical justification and intending to cause deaths, even if the drugs were actually administered by a nurse or other colleague.

“The real defense I would see that he would have is this might be within the range of legitimate medical conduct,” said Wes Oliver, a criminal law professor at Duquesne University. Whether Husel administered the drugs himself or ordered them is irrelevant under the law, Oliver said.

“If you set something in motion that then causes a death, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the physical last act,” Oliver said.

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University may return $21.5M after donor’s abortion remarks

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — When philanthropist Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. pledged a record $26.5 million to the University of Alabama in September, the institution showered him with praise, lauding his generosity, describing him as a “special person” and renaming the law school in his honor.

That relationship quickly soured. On Friday, Alabama’s board of trustees is expected to reject Culverhouse’s gift, give back the $21.5 million received so far, and remove his name, too.

Depending on which side you talk to, the flap is either the most high-profile fallout from Alabama’s new abortion ban or a completely unrelated dispute.

The bond began publicly unraveling last week after Culverhouse, a Florida real estate investor and lawyer, called on students to boycott the university to protest the ban. Hours later, Alabama announced it was considering giving back his money, the biggest donation ever made to the university.

“I don’t want anybody to go to that law school, especially women, until the state gets its act together,” the 70-year-old Culverhouse said in an interview.

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Training rollover kills West Point cadet, injures many

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — A vehicle loaded with West Point cadets on summer training overturned in rough, wooded terrain Thursday, killing one cadet and injuring several others, the U.S. Military Academy said.

The tactical vehicle operated by two soldiers overturned around 6:45 a.m. as it was headed to a land navigation site as part of standard summer cadet training, said West Point’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams.

The two soldiers were injured along with 19 cadets in the Class of 2020. Williams said none of the injuries were life-threatening. Injuries included broken arms and facial abrasions, an official with the hospital at West Point said.

“It is not common for these vehicles to turn over. It is very rough terrain,” Williams told reporters at a briefing near the accident site Thursday afternoon. “You can see the hills we have here.”

Helicopter footage from WNBC showed a truck flipped over in a wooded area.

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US and Mexico: More talks, no deal yet to avert tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ending a second day of tense negotiations, U.S. and Mexican officials failed Thursday to reach a deal to avert import tariffs that President Donald Trump is threatening to impose as he tries to strong-arm Mexico into stemming the flow of Central American migrants across America’s southern border.

Vice President Mike Pence, monitoring the talks from his travels in Pennsylvania, said the U.S. was “encouraged” by Mexico’s latest proposals but, so far, tariffs still were set to take effect Monday.

Pence added that it would be “for the president to decide” whether Mexico was doing enough to head off the tariffs. Pence said that, among other issues, negotiators had been discussing a potential agreement to make it more difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S. Mexico has long resisted that request.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued a statement Thursday saying Trump’s position “has not changed” and the president was “still moving forward with tariffs at this time.”

Trump has threatened to impose a 5% tax on all Mexican goods beginning Monday as part of an escalating tariff regime opposed by many in his own Republican Party.

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US commander says Mideast buildup prompted Iran ‘step back’

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iran has chosen to “step back and recalculate” after making preparations for an apparent attack against U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, but it is too early to conclude the threat is gone, the top commander of American forces in the Mideast said Thursday.

In an interview with three reporters accompanying him to the Gulf, Gen. Frank McKenzie said he remains concerned by Iran’s potential for aggression, and he would not rule out requesting additional U.S. forces to bolster defenses against Iranian missiles or other weapons.

“I don’t actually believe the threat has diminished,” McKenzie said. “I believe the threat is very real.”

McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, and other military officials are trying to strike a balance between persuading Iran that the U.S. is prepared to retaliate for an Iranian attack on Americans, thus deterring conflict, and pushing so much military muscle into the Gulf that Iran thinks the U.S. plans an attack, in which case it might feel compelled to strike preemptively and thus spark war.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have worsened since President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and several world powers, and reinstated sanctions on Tehran. Last month, in response to what American officials characterized as an imminent threat, the U.S. announced it would rush an aircraft carrier and other assets to the region.

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‘Dr. John,’ funky New Orleans ‘night-tripper’ musician, dies

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dr. John, the New Orleans singer and piano player who blended black and white musical styles with a hoodoo-infused stage persona and gravelly bayou drawl, died Thursday, his family said. He was 77.

In a statement released through his publicist, the family said Dr. John, who was born Mac Rebennack, died “toward the break of day” of a heart attack. They did not say where he died or give other details. He had not been seen in public much since late 2017, when he canceled several gigs. He had been resting at his New Orleans area home, publicist Karen Beninato said last year in an interview.

Memorial arrangements were being planned. “The family thanks all whom have shared his unique musical journey, and requests privacy at this time,” the statement said.

“Dr. John was a true Louisiana legend,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement. “He showed the world Louisiana’s rich musical heritage, and his passion for music has left a mark on the industry unlike any other.”

Drummer Ringo Starr was among the first musicians to weigh in on Twitter. “God bless Dr. John peace and love to all his family I love the doctor peace and love,” the Beatles legend tweeted.

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