AP News in Brief: 03-02-18

Trade war? Trump orders big tariffs on steel, aluminum

WASHINGTON — Ordering combative action on foreign trade, President Donald Trump declared Thursday the U.S. will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, escalating tensions with China and other trading partners and raising the prospect of higher prices for American consumers and companies.

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With “trade war” talk in the air, stocks closed sharply lower on Wall Street.

Trump said firm action was crucial to protect U.S. industry from unfair competition and to bolster national security. However, his announcement came only after an intense internal White House debate. It brought harsh criticism from some Republicans and roiled financial markets with concerns about economic ramifications.

Overseas, Trump’s words brought a stinging rebuke from the president of the European Commission. Though the president generally focuses on China in his trade complaining, it was the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker who denounced his plan as “a blatant intervention to protect U.S. domestic industry.”

Putin’s nuke boasts are unlikely to change balance of power

WASHINGTON — Russia’s claim to have developed new strategic weapons impervious to Western defenses seems unlikely to change the balance of global power.

Russian nuclear missiles already have the ability to annihilate the U.S., and U.S. defense strategy is based mainly on the deterrent threat of massive nuclear retaliation, not on an impenetrable shield against Russian missiles.

Some analysts said President Vladimir Putin’s statements about the new weapons may speed up what they see as an emerging arms race with the United States. Just last month the United States cast Russia as the main reason it needs to develop two new nuclear weapons: a lower-yield warhead for a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.

The Trump administration has vowed to expand U.S. nuclear strength, while criticizing Russia’s buildup. Putin’s remarks seem unlikely to change that equation or divert the Trump administration from its path toward modernizing the full U.S. nuclear arsenal at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars while also expanding missile defenses.

Putin, in a state-of-the-nation speech Thursday in Moscow just days before he is expected to win another six-year presidential term, said his new weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone that could be armed with a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic missile that has no equivalent in the world.

Bizarre behavior by Georgia teacher preceded gun scare

ATLANTA — When a north Georgia high school teacher was charged this week with firing a gunshot from inside a barricaded classroom and setting off a frantic lockdown and evacuation, it was not his first troubling encounter with police.

Just over a year ago, school employees and a police officer began searching Dalton High School after social studies instructor Jesse Randal Davidson went missing.

He was finally found sitting on the curb along a street a few blocks from the campus, being propped up by two school staff members, police said.

“I attempted to speak with Davidson as did staff members but no amount of stimulus would draw a response,” an officer wrote in his report. Davidson was then taken to a hospital.

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In 2016, Davidson walked into the lobby of the Dalton police headquarters and told a wild story including his suspicions that someone had been murdered, police said. Detectives couldn’t verify that any of it was true, and he was taken to the hospital since he’d expressed thoughts of hurting himself, police wrote in their report on that episode.

By wire sources