AP News in Brief 01-25-18

Gymnastics doctor sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison

LANSING, Mich. — The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years under the guise of medical treatment was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison by a judge who proudly told him, “I just signed your death warrant.”

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The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which more than 150 women and girls offered statements about being abused by Larry Nassar, a physician who was renowned for treating athletes at the sport’s highest levels. Many confronted him face to face in the Michigan courtroom.

“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said.

Nassar’s actions were “precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable,” she said.

When the hearing ended, the courtroom broke into applause. Victims and prosecutors embraced at the conclusion of the grueling 16-month case.

50 years later, USS Pueblo is a Pyongyang museum piece

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Fifty years after it was seized by North Korea, the USS Pueblo is the only U.S. Navy ship held captive by a foreign government. And though mostly forgotten in the United States, the “Pueblo Incident” for North Korea remains a potent symbol of military success.

The spy ship and captured 50 years ago this week sits in a frozen river on the edge of the “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum” in Pyongyang, where thousands of North Koreans are brought each day to hear the North’s version of how their country defeated the Americans in the 1950-53 Korean War.

State media have played up the anniversary as a milestone in North Korea’s struggle against the United States.

The ship has been extensively refitted to heighten its propaganda impact.

Trump: Would ‘love to’ face Mueller questions under oath

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared late Wednesday he’s “looking forward” to being questioned — under oath — in the special counsel’s probe of Russian election interference and possible Trump obstruction in the firing of the FBI director.

Trump said he would be willing to answer questions under oath in the interview, which special counsel Robert Mueller has been seeking but which White House officials had not previously confirmed the president would grant.

“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump said when asked by reporters at the White House. As for timing, he said, “I guess they’re talking about two or three weeks, but I’d love to do it.”

He said, as he has repeatedly, that “there’s no collusion whatsoever” with the Russians, and he added, “There’s no obstruction whatsoever.”

The full scope of Mueller’s investigation, which involves hundreds of thousands of documents and dozens of witness interviews, is unknown. And there have been no signs that agents aren’t continuing to work on ties between Trump’s campaign and a Russian effort to tip the 2016 election.

Senate narrowly approves Brownback for religious freedom job

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved Sam Brownback’s bid to be U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, setting the stage for him to resign the governorship in Kansas after seven contentious years in office.

With two Republican senators absent, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Brownback, a favorite of Christian conservatives for his views on same-sex marriage and abortion. The vote was along party lines, 50-49, underscoring the narrow margin Republicans hold. Pence’s vote also was needed earlier in the day to get Brownback’s nomination over a procedural hurdle.

Fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be elevated to governor in Kansas once Brownback submits his resignation. That could come as early as next week.

“I’m glad to have the vice president in my corner,” Brownback told reporters after a meeting with Kansas legislative leaders at the statehouse in Topeka. He added later, “I’m happy. It’s a critical job. I’m excited about being able to do it.”

Brownback served in the U.S. Senate before becoming governor in January 2011. He made Kansas an economic laboratory for the nation by aggressively cutting taxes, arguing that they would provide “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the state’s economy.

Kushners drop much-criticized effort to raise Chinese cash

NEW YORK (AP) — The family real estate company once run by Jared Kushner is no longer seeking $150 million from Chinese investors for a New Jersey building project after months of criticism that the company was playing up its White House ties to raise the money.

A person familiar with the fundraising effort said this week that the company has stopped trying to raise money from wealthy Chinese to help pay for One Journal Square, a planned 66-story residential, retail and office complex in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Ethics experts blasted the Kushner Cos. last May after Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, mentioned her brother at a presentation to prospective investors in Shanghai. The presentation included a photo of Donald Trump, and Chinese ads included vague promises that the project had “government support” and was “founded by celebrity developers.” The company, which canceled other appearances in the country, denied it was seeking to benefit from its White House ties.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, resigned as CEO of Kushner Cos. last year to become a senior adviser to the president.

The Jersey City project is just one of several by the Kushner family company, but it has been thrown in the spotlight as a test of whether the people close to Trump are profiting from his presidency.

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Trump open to letting Dreamers ‘morph into’ citizens

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s open to an immigration plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally.

“We’re going to morph into it,” Trump told reporters. “It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

Trump’s pronouncements came as the White House announced it would be unveiling a legislative framework on immigration next week that it hopes can pass both the House and the Senate. The president’s remarks amounted to a preview of that framework. He said he’ll propose $25 billion for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and $5 billion for other security measures.

But immediately after Trump spoke, a senior White House official stressed the idea of a pathway to citizenship so-called Dreamers was just a “discussion point” in the plan that the White House intended to preview to the House and Senate later Wednesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the administration’s thinking on a contentious issue that has roiled lawmakers for months.

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Probe: Chinese opioid sellers exploit US postal service flaw

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional investigators said Wednesday that Chinese opioid manufacturers are exploiting weak screening at the U.S. Postal Service to ship large quantities of illegal drugs to American dealers.

In a yearlong probe , Senate investigators found that Chinese sellers, who openly market opioids such as fentanyl to U.S. buyers, are pushing delivery through the U.S. postal system. The sellers are taking advantage of a failure by the postal service to fully implement an electronic data system that would help authorities identify suspicious shipments.

At a time of massive growth in postal shipments from China due to e-commerce, the investigators found that the postal system received the electronic data on just over a third of all international packages, making more than 300 million packages in 2017 much harder to screen. Data in the Senate report shows no significant improvement during 2017 despite the urgency.

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The U.S. Postal Service said it has made dramatic progress in the last year in total packages with opioids seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The Postal Service will continue to work tirelessly to address this serious societal issue,” spokesman David Partenheimer said in a statement.