AP News in Brief 01-21-18

US marches for women’s rights slam Trump, encourage voting

LOS ANGELES — Demonstrators from Los Angeles to New York marched in support of female empowerment and denounced President Donald Trump’s views on immigration, abortion, LGBT rights and women’s rights on Saturday, the anniversary of his inauguration.

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People marched in Casper, Wyoming, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Houston. In Park City, Utah, where the annual Sundance Film Festival is in full swing, actress Jane Fonda and nationally known attorney Gloria Allred joined the women’s march.

In Morristown, New Jersey, that state’s new first lady told a crowd she was a victim of sexual violence while attending college.

Tammy Murphy, the wife of Democrat Phil Murphy, said the attack occurred while she was a sophomore at the University of Virginia. She said she was walking along a path when a man grabbed her and pulled her into some bushes. She said the man tried to take her clothes off and put a crab apple in her mouth to silence her but she bit his hand and fled half-dressed to a nearby fraternity house, where students called police.

In Los Angeles, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, Scarlett Johansson, Constance Wu, Adam Scott and Rob Reiner were among the celebrities who addressed a crowd of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.

Signs of government shutdown spotty but symbolic

WASHINGTON — Symbols of American promise became emblems of American dysfunction on Saturday when a dispute in Congress over spending and immigration forced scores of federal government agencies and outposts to close their doors.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island turned away visitors in New York, due to what the National Park Service described as “a lapse in appropriations,” a bureaucratic term for a lack of money. In Philadelphia, crowds of tourists were told Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, and the Liberty Bell were closed.

The shuttered icons were some of the easiest-to-spot impacts of the partial government closure. Funds ran out at midnight Friday, leaving 48 hours before the most dramatic effect — the furloughing of nearly a million federal employees — goes into effect.

As in shutdowns past, federal services were carved into two categories — essential and non-essential — with the former set to carry on as normal. In that category, the mail will be delivered and Social Security checks still go out, the air traffic control system stays up and running, as do the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and veterans hospitals.

Pope: Femicides in Latin America a scourge that must stop

TRUJILLO, Peru — Pope Francis denounced femicides and other gender-based crimes that have turned Latin America into the most violent place on Earth for women, calling Saturday for legislation to protect them and a new cultural mindset as he visited one of Peru’s most dangerous parts.

At a Marian prayer in the northern seaside city of Trujillo, Francis called women, mothers and grandmothers the guiding force for families. And yet, he said, in the Americas they are too often victims of murder and “many situations of violence that are kept quiet behind so many walls.”

The first Latin American pope called for lawmakers to protect women and for a new culture “that repudiates every form of violence.” His remarks came the same day large crowds marched throughout the United States and other countries in support of female empowerment.

Francis’ use of the term femicide — the killing of women where the motive is directly related to gender— marked the second time in as many days that he has spoken out against “machismo” culture in Latin America. The region has the dubious honor of having the world’s highest rates of violence against women occurring outside romantic partnerships, and the second-highest within.

Even though more and more countries in the region are adopting protective policies for women, female homicides are rising in Latin America with two in every five resulting from domestic violence, according to a November 2017 report from U.N. Women and the U.N. Development Program that called the phenomenon a “global pandemic.”

Congressman denies misconduct claim; ethics probe may follow

HARRISBURG, Pa. — House Speaker Paul Ryan called for an Ethics Committee investigation Saturday after the New York Times reported that U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan used taxpayer money to settle a complaint that stemmed from his hostility toward a former aide who rejected his romantic overtures.

The story, published online Saturday, cited unnamed people who said the Republican Pennsylvania representative used thousands of dollars from his congressional office fund to settle the sexual harassment complaint the ex-aide filed last summer to the congressional Office of Compliance.

In a statement, Ryan’s spokeswoman said the allegations must be investigated “fully and immediately” by the House Ethics Committee and that Meehan would immediately submit himself to the committee’s review. Meehan is being removed from his position on the committee, and Ryan told Meehan that he should repay any taxpayer funds that were used to settle the case, Ryan’s spokeswoman said.

The Times did not identify the accuser and said she did not speak to the newspaper.

In a statement, the four-term congressman’s office denied that Meehan sexually harassed or mistreated the ex-aide. It also said Meehan, the former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, had asked congressional lawyers who handled the case to ask the ex-aide’s lawyer to dissolve the settlement’s confidentiality requirements “to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts.”

Mudslides take heavy toll on immigrants serving posh town

Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe give Montecito its star power, but it’s people like Antonio and Victor Benitez who keep the wealthy Southern California community running.

The Mexican brothers are gardeners and part of the town’s working-class immigrant population, which suffered outsized losses from the recent mudslides that killed at least 20, injured dozens and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes.

Antonio and Victor Benitez suffered broken bones and each lost a child. Antonio’s wife was killed, while Victor’s wife is missing and his toddler son was injured.

Nearly a third of those killed in the Jan. 9 mudslides were from immigrant families working in service jobs in the largely white and retired Pacific coast town of 9,000. Many of these families are from developing countries seizing the opportunities provided by the area’s wealth to make a better life for their children.

Among them was 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa from Thailand who worked at a Toyota dealership in Santa Barbara and sent money to his wife and two children for years before being able to bring them to the United States in 2016. The mudslides killed him, his 6-year-old son and his 79-year-old stepfather. Crews are still searching for Sutthithepa’s 2-year-old daughter.

IOC says North Korea to have 22 athletes in 5 Olympic sports

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — A Korean unity deal for the Pyeongchang Olympics will bring 22 North Korean athletes across the border to South Korea, where they will march as one under a unification flag at the opening ceremony and compete together in one sport.

In the most symbolic agreement approved Saturday, 12 North Korean women’s hockey players will join their neighbors in a united roster playing in special uniforms with a Korean song as their anthem.

North Koreans will also compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing after being given exceptional late entries by the International Olympic Committee.

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The North Korean delegation will also include 24 coaches and officials, plus 21 media representatives at the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games.

The governments of North and South Korea were offered “sincere thanks” by IOC President Thomas Bach announcing the agreement.