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

With eyes on election, White House insists economy is strong

WASHINGTON (AP) — The “fundamentals” of the U.S. economy are solid, the White House asserted Monday, invoking an ill-fated political declaration of a decade ago amid mounting concern that a recession could imperil President Donald Trump’s reelection.

Exhibiting no such concern, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway declared to reporters, “The fact is, the fundamentals of our economy are very strong,”

It’s a phrase with a history. Republican John McCain was accused of being out of touch when he made a similar declaration during the 2008 presidential campaign just hours before investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, setting off a stock market crash and global financial decline.

A case can be made for the White House position. The U.S. job market is setting records for low unemployment , and the economy has continued uninterrupted growth since Trump took office. But growth is slowing, stock markets have swung wildly in recent weeks on recession fears, and indicators in the housing and manufacturing sectors have given economists pause. A new survey Monday showed a big majority of economists expecting a downturn to hit by 2021 at the latest, according to a report from the National Association of Business Economics.

Trump begs to disagree.

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NYPD fires officer 5 years after Garner’s chokehold death

NEW YORK (AP) — After five years of investigations and protests, the New York City Police Department on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, the black man whose dying gasps of “I can’t breathe” gave voice to a national debate over race and police use of force.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill said he fired Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, based on a recent recommendation of a department disciplinary judge.

O’Neill said he thought Pantaleo’s use of the banned chokehold as he wrestled with Garner was a mistake that could have been made by any officer in the heat of an arrest. But it was clear Pantaleo had broken department rules and “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”

“None of us can take back our decisions,” O’Neill said, “especially when they lead to the death of another human being.”

The decision was welcomed by activists and Garner’s family, but condemned by the head of the city’s largest police union, who declared that it would undermine morale and cause officers to hesitate to use force for fear they could be fired.

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Records: Epstein signed will 2 days before jailhouse suicide

NEW YORK (AP) — Jeffrey Epstein signed a will just two days before he killed himself in jail, new court records show, opening a new legal front in what could be a long battle over the financier’s fortune.

Court papers filed last week in the U.S. Virgin Islands list no details of beneficiaries but valued the estate at more than $577 million, including more than $56 million in cash.

The existence of the will, first reported by the New York Post, raised new questions about Epstein’s final days inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Epstein signed the document Aug. 8. Less than 48 hours later, he was found dead in his cell, prompting an investigation that has cast a harsh light on staffing shortages at the Manhattan detention center.

Prosecutors on Monday moved to dismiss the indictment against Epstein but have said they are considering charging others with facilitating his alleged abuse of dozens of girls.

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Planned Parenthood leaves federal family planning program

NEW YORK (AP) — Planned Parenthood said Monday it’s pulling out of the federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting president and CEO, said the organization’s nationwide network of health centers would remain open and strive to make up for the loss of federal money. But she predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood services would “delay or go without” care.

“We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients,” said McGill Johnson. “Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”

Enforcement of the new Title X rule marks a major victory for a key part of President Donald Trump’s political base — religious conservatives opposed to abortion. They have been campaigning relentlessly to “defund Planned Parenthood” because — among its varied services — it is the largest abortion provider in the United States, and they viewed the Title X grants as an indirect subsidy.

About 4 million women are served nationwide under the Title X program, which distributes $260 million in family planning grants to clinics. Planned Parenthood says it has served about 40% of patients, many of them African American and Hispanic. Family planning funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.

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Asian shares mostly rise after Wall Street rally on Huawei

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher Tuesday after Wall Street rallied on the U.S. decision to give Chinese telecom giant Huawei another 90 days to buy equipment from American suppliers.

That decision appeared to inspire a buying mood among investors eager for any signs of progress in the trade war between the U.S. and China.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.4% in morning trading to 20,653.93. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added nearly 0.7% to 6,510.40. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3% to 1,946.30, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.2% to 26,234.85. The Shanghai Composite was little changed, inching down less than 0.1% at 2,881.06.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 climbed 34.97 points, or 1.2%, to 2,923.65. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 249.78 points, or 1%, to 26,135.79. The index briefly gained 336 points. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, rose 106.82 points, or 1.3%, to 8,002.81. Smaller company stocks also had a good day. The Russell 2000 index gained 15.21 points, or 1%, to 1,508.85.

Recently investors have been trying to determine whether a recession is on the horizon in the U.S. A key concern is that the escalating and costly trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies will hamper growth around the globe.

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Pentagon conducts 1st test of previously banned missile

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military has conducted a flight test of a type of missile banned for more than 30 years by a treaty that both the United States and Russia abandoned this month, the Pentagon said.

The test off the coast of California on Sunday marked the resumption of an arms competition that some analysts worry could increase U.S.-Russian tensions. The Trump administration has said it remains interested in useful arms control but questions Moscow’s willingness to adhere to its treaty commitments.

The Pentagon said it tested a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which was launched from San Nicolas Island and accurately struck its target after flying more than 500 kilometers (310 miles). The missile was armed with a conventional, not nuclear, warhead.

Defense officials had said last March that this missile likely would have a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and that it might be ready for deployment within 18 months.

The missile would have violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987, which banned all types of missiles with ranges between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 5,500 kilometers (3,410 miles). The U.S. and Russia withdrew from the treaty on Aug. 2, prompted by what the administration said was Russia’s unwillingness to stop violating the treaty’s terms. Russia accused the U.S. of violating the agreement.

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Wildfire acreage way down in California this year _ so far

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California is not burning. At least not as much as it has in recent years.

Acreage burned through Sunday is down 90% compared to the average over the past five years and down 95% from last year, according to statistics from the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The stats are good news for a state that has seen terrifyingly destructive and deadly blazes the past two years, but the worst of those fires occurred in the fall.

The precipitous drop could be due to the amount of precipitation the state received during a winter of near-record snowfall and cooler-than-average temperatures — so far.

Scott McLean, a spokesman for CalFire, said the state hasn’t dried out as quickly this year and the temperatures haven’t been as consistently hot. Hot spells have been followed by cooler weather and winds haven’t been strong.

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Twitter shuts Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter said Monday it has suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it believes were part of a Chinese government influence campaign targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong.

The company also said it will ban ads from state-backed media companies, expanding a prohibition it first applied in 2017 to two Russian entities.

Both measures are part of what a senior company official portrayed in an interview as a broader effort to curb malicious political activity on a popular platform that has been criticized for enabling election interference around the world and for accepting money for ads that amount to propaganda by state-run media organizations.

The accounts were suspended for violating the social networking platform’s terms of service and “because we think this is not how people can come to Twitter to get informed,” the official said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the Chinese activity was reported to the FBI, which investigated Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media.

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Pell’s appeal argued ‘solid obstacles’ precluded convictions

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Cardinal George Pell’s lawyers argued in his appeal that there were more than a dozen “solid obstacles” that should have prevented a jury from finding him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of molesting two choirboys.

A jury convicted Pell of molesting the 13-year-old friends in a priests’ changing room known as a sacristy at the rear of a cathedral in the Australian city of Melbourne several minutes after a Mass more than 20 years ago. He was also convicted of squeezing one of the boy’s genitals and shoving him against a corridor wall after a Mass weeks later. One of the victims died in 2014, a year before the surviving choirboy made a complaint to police.

A look at some of the obstacles that Pell’s lawyers noted in the appeal, which a court will decide Wednesday:

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PELL COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALONE IN SACRISTY

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Another first for Clemson: No. 1 in AP preseason Top 25

Cross off another milestone for Clemson, college football’s newest superpower.

For the first time, the defending national champion Tigers are No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 presented by Regions Bank. The Tigers won the program’s second national title in three seasons behind freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in January. Clemson now can claim equal standing with Alabama at the top of the sport.

The Crimson Tide, coming off a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship, is No. 2. Clemson received 52 first-place votes and Alabama received the other 10 from the media. Clemson snaps a record-tying string of three straight years in which Alabama was preseason No. 1.

Georgia, Alabama’s Southeastern Conference rival, is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Ohio State.

Clemson’s rise under coach Dabo Swinney has been uncommon in college football. The school won the national championship in 1981, but mostly it had resided on a tier well below the traditional national powers. Clemson football was usually good and sometimes excellent, but never this.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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