AP News in Brief: 02-06-18

SpaceX’s big new rocket blasts off with sports car on top

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

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The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.

The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since NASA’s last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone.

Two of the boosters— both recycled from previous launches — returned minutes later for simultaneous, side-by-side touchdowns at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings. There was no immediate word on whether the third booster, brand new, made it onto the ocean platform 300 miles offshore.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk owns the rocketing Tesla Roadster, which is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars. As head of the electric carmaker Tesla, he combined his passions to add a dramatic flair to the Heavy’s long-awaited inaugural flight. Typical ballast for a rocket debut is usually concrete or steel slabs, or experiments.

Trump aide: Some immigrants ‘too lazy’ to sign up for DACA

WASHINGTON — Some immigrants may have been “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Obama-era program that offers protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal on the divisive issue.

Kelly discounted the possibility that Trump would announce a temporary extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program beyond March 5, when its protections could expire. He said the administration would not ask Congress to set a later date to give bargainers more time to reach a bipartisan deal, but said the government would not start deporting “Dreamers” who don’t have criminal records.

“They are not a priority for deportation,” he told reporters.

Kelly spoke as lawmakers have deadlocked in an effort to reach an immigration compromise. Barring an unlikely last-minute agreement, the Senate is expected to begin debating the issue next week, and it is unclear what if any plan will survive.

“We just don’t know where 60 votes are for any particular proposal,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., citing the votes needed for passage. Republicans have a slim majority and any measure will need around a dozen Democratic votes to succeed.

Dow turns 567 point loss into 567 point gain as stocks rally

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rallied Tuesday as a late surge helped them regain almost half their losses from the day before, when they had their biggest plunge in 6 ½ years. That came at the end of a day of heavy trading and huge swings for the market.

Major indexes in Asia and Europe took steep losses and U.S. markets started sharply lower, only to repeatedly change direction. After its 1,175-point nosedive Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 567 points right after trading began. After numerous turns higher and lower, it wound up with a gain, coincidentally, of 567.

Despite the turbulence, Tuesday’s trading looked similar to the patterns that have shaped the market for the last year: investors bought companies that do well when economic growth is strongest. Gainers included technology companies, retailers like Amazon and Home Depot, and industrial companies and banks.

Bond yields turned higher after a sharp drop Monday. As a result, the biggest losses went to high-dividend companies such as utility and real estate companies, which investors often buy as an alternative to bonds. When bond yields rise, those stocks become less appealing to investors seeking income. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.80 percent from 2.71 percent.

The Dow finished 567.02 points higher, or 2.3 percent, at 24,912.77.

On Trump’s desk: Dems’ classified memo on Russia probe

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump met with a top Justice Department official Tuesday to review a classified Democratic memo on the Russia investigation, less than a week after he brushed aside objections from the same agency over releasing a Republican account.

The dueling memos — and Trump’s silence so far on whether he will release the Democratic version — have set up a standoff between Trump and congressional Democrats and deepened partisan fights on the House intelligence panel. The memos have become the recent focus of the committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, taking attention away from investigations into whether Trump’s campaign was involved.

The Democratic document is intended to counter the GOP memo, which criticized methods the FBI used to obtain a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate. The president has until the end of the week to decide whether to make it public.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss differences between the two memos, and “we are undergoing the exact same process that we did with the previous memo, in which it will go through a full and thorough legal and national security review.”

The House panel voted unanimously Monday to release the Democratic memo, sending it to the White House.

Why Trump has little influence on rising or falling stocks

WASHINGTON — For months, President Donald Trump boasted about having steered the U.S. stock markets to record high after record high.

What a difference a few days can make.

The market free-fall, explosive volatility and now partial recovery of stock prices have served as a stark reminder that Trump, like his predecessors, isn’t commander in chief of the U.S. economy — or the financial markets. The markets pivot on forces that owe at least as much to computerized trading programs, overseas investors and global central banks as they do to a president’s policies and force of personality.

The Dow Jones industrial average went on a wild ride Tuesday — ricocheting between losses and gains — to close up more than 560 points, or 2 percent. The gains weren’t enough, though, to offset the dizzying drops from the prior two days of frantic trading.

Anxiety has settled deep into a market that Trump long treated as a sure-fire triumph.

Shutdown less likely as Senate closes in on budget agreement

WASHINGTON — Buoyed by encouraging prospects of a budget pact, lawmakers on Tuesday appeared increasingly likely to avoid a repeat of last month’s government shutdown — though President Donald Trump unexpectedly raised the possibility of closing things down again if he can’t have his way on immigration.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump declared. And then he repeated that sentiment several more times.

Trump’s comments came out of left field as Senate leaders closed in on a longer-term agreement on legislation to award whopping spending increases to both the Pentagon and domestic federal programs as well as to pass overdue disaster relief money and, perhaps, crucial legislation to increase the government’s borrowing limit and avoid possible default.

Democratic leaders appeared no longer intent on linking progress on the budget to protections for younger “Dreamer” immigrants who were brought to the country as children and are here illegally. Instead, the Democrats prepared to reap tens of billions of dollars for the party’s domestic priorities such as combatting opioids while taking their chances on solving the immigration impasse later.

Meanwhile, the House took up a six-week stopgap spending bill containing increases for the military that long have been demanded by Trump and his GOP allies. But the measure appeared increasingly likely to be rewritten by the Senate to include legislation implementing the brewing budget pact.

Deadly earthquake strikes Taiwan; shelters opened

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck Tuesday near the coast of Taiwan, killing two people and injuring more than 200 others, officials said.

The ground floor of the Marshal Hotel in Hualien county caved in, causing the death of one employee. Another person died in a residential building, the national fire and rescue service reported.

Chen Minghui, a maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the hotel’s basement, said the force of the earthquake was unusual.

“At first it wasn’t that big … we get this sort of thing all the time and its really nothing. But then it got really terrifying,” Chen said after he was reunited with his son and grandson. “It was really scary.”

Other buildings shifted on their foundations and rescuers used ladders, ropes and cranes to get residents to safety.

Trump’s bipartisan pitch long gone; now he’s talking treason

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s call in the State of the Union address last week for a new era of bipartisan cooperation seems like a distant memory.

Now, he’s calling Democrats “un-American” and perhaps “treasonous” for not clapping during that address — part of a larger trend of recent insults and slights as the president turns his ire on the opposition party for failing to go along with his plans.

His treason quip on Monday triggered an uproar among Democrats. The White House quickly responded that the president was joking, although Trump hasn’t said — or tweeted — as much.

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, tweeted her umbrage, working in a reminder that Trump had deferments during the Vietnam War for bone spurs.

“We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy,” she wrote. “I swore an oath_in the military and in the Senate_to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”

Amtrak engineer ordered to stand trial in Philadelphia crash

PHILADELPHIA — Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian sat stunned Tuesday as a judge reinstated twice-rejected criminal charges and ordered him to stand trial for a deadly 2015 train wreck in Philadelphia.

Judge Kathryn S. Lewis ruled that another judge erred in dismissing the reckless endangerment and involuntary manslaughter charges at a hearing in September.

Lewis said evidence at the hearing — including testimony from an injured passenger and gruesome details of tattered cars and strewn limbs — should have been sufficient to warrant a trial.

“The victims are going to have their day in court, which is all they have ever sought,” said Thomas Kline, the lawyer for the family of a victim that kept the case alive by filing a private criminal complaint after city prosecutors declined to bring charges.

Eight people were killed and about 200 were hurt when the Washington-to-New York train rounded a curve at more than twice the 50 mph speed limit and hurdled off the tracks.

British judge upholds arrest warrant for Julian Assange

LONDON — A British judge on Tuesday upheld a U.K. arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, leaving him still a wanted man in the country where he has spent more than five years inside the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected a call from Assange’s lawyers for the warrant to be revoked because he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex crimes. It was issued in 2012 for jumping bail.

“I am not persuaded the warrant should be withdrawn,” Arbuthnot told lawyers, journalists and Assange supporters gathered at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

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However, she allowed Assange’s lawyer to make a new set of arguments challenging whether it is in the public interest to continue the case against Assange, and said she would rule on them next week. A decision in Assange’s favor would end Britain’s case against him.

Assange, 46, has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since he took refuge there in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women in 2010.