AP News in Brief 03-05-18

White House: No exemptions from steel, aluminum tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration appears unbowed by broad domestic and international criticism of his planned import tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying Sunday that the president is not planning on exempting any countries from the stiff duties.


Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: “At this point in time there’s no country exclusions.”

Trump’s announcement Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets, rankled allies and raised prospects for a trade war. While his rhetoric has been focused on China, the duties will also cover significant imports from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

Addressing criticism of the proposed action, Trump tweeted Sunday that American “Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change!”

The Pentagon had recommended that Trump only pursue targeted tariffs, so as not to upset American partners abroad. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Sunday that was not the direction the president would take.

Election projections in Italy point to hung Parliament

ROME — Election projections in Italy early Monday showed a center-right coalition that includes an anti-migrant party edging past the populist 5-Star Movement, but no single bloc or party with the support to win a majority in Parliament.

If confirmed by official results, the outcome could set the stage for weeks of political haggling to forge a new government

An RAI State TV projection from Sunday’s election showed the center-right bloc in front with 35.5 percent and the center-left, which includes the Democratic Party leading the current government, lagging at 23 percent.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement had 32.5 percent.

Another projection that looked only at how parties fared had the 5-Star Movement snagging 31.8 percent of the vote, but far from the threshold it needed to form a government.

Merkel in line for a fourth term after months of uncertainty

BERLIN — Germany ended months of political uncertainty Sunday when Chancellor Angela Merkel gained the support needed to preserve her governing coalition and secure a fourth term as leader of Europe’s most powerful economy.

The center-left Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly to remain in a coalition with Merkel’s conservative bloc, after difficult and drawn-out negotiations triggered by September’s elections, which saw the rise of a new right-wing force in German politics and raised questions about Merkel’s future.

Parliament is expected to meet March 14 to re-elect Merkel as chancellor, ending the longest time Germany has been without a new government after elections in its postwar history.

Merkel has drawn flak from both left and right for maintaining an unabashedly centrist course since taking office in 2005. With the coalition approved, she can now turn her attention to tackling rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany while pushing forward efforts to reform the stumbling European Union.

“I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to continuing to work together for the good of our country,” she said on Twitter.


China’s Xi poised to make historic grab at indefinite rule

BEIJING — President Xi Jinping is poised to make a historic power grab as China’s legislators gather beginning Monday to approve changes that will let him rule indefinitely and undo decades of efforts to prevent a return to crushing dictatorship.

This year’s gathering of the ceremonial National People’s Congress has been overshadowed by Xi’s surprise move — announced just a week ago — to end constitutional two-term limits on the presidency. The changes would allow Xi, already China’s most powerful leader in decades, to extend his rule over the world’s second-largest economy possibly for life.

“This is a critical moment in China’s history,” said Cheng Li, an expert on elite China politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The move is widely seen as the culmination of the 64-year-old Xi’s efforts since being appointed leader of the ruling Communist Party in 2012 to concentrate power in his own hands and defy norms of collective leadership established over the past two decades. Xi has appointed himself to head bodies that oversee national security, finance, economic reform and other major initiatives, effectively sidelining the party’s No. 2 figure, Premier Li Keqiang.

Once passed, the constitutional amendment would upend a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.


During Trump hotel strife, a ‘Trump Mojito’ but no water

PANAMA CITY — If you can overlook the intermittently running water, Friday’s four-hour power outage and occasional police presence in the lobby, the Trump hotel in Panama City retains its status as one of the city’s finest.

The hotel remains open for business against a backdrop of service interruptions, bad press and a fight over the Trump Organization’s management contract that ended in fisticuffs and repeated police calls last week.

“This isn’t what you expect from a luxury hotel,” one guest was heard fuming when told Thursday that access to running water would not be restored for hours.

The hotel’s lobby is notable mostly for its shortage of guests, compensated for by a generous allotment of reporters and security staff bracing for renewed confrontations after investor Orestes Fintiklis tried to wrest the administrative office back from the Trump Organization last week.

Armed with termination notices for the hotel’s management, he met stiff resistance from Trump lawyers and security — the first skirmish in a battle for physical control of the hotel property.


Drama in red and neutrals on Oscars red carpet

Looks in neutrals, reds and purples brought the drama Sunday on the Oscars carpet, along with a healthy dose of shiny gold, but Nicole Kidman stood out in stunning cobalt blue at Hollywood’s biggest fashion show.

Kidman, a presenter, was among the last to walk in Los Angeles when she showed up with a wave to the cameras in her power look, a strapless gown with a huge bow in front. Sandra Bullock brought the strength in a gold Louis Vuitton custom halter dress that draped at the waist and went black at the hem.

Salma Hayek looked like exotic royalty in a custom Gucci gown in lilac. It was heavily jeweled and had a busy, ruffled tiered skirt. Rita Moreno, meanwhile, honored Academy Awards history by donning the same gown (with a bold-pattern full skirt) she wore in 1962, when she won an Oscar for “West Side Story.”

“It’s been hanging in my closet this whole time,” Moreno told The Associated Press.

A few recently returned Olympians showed up on the red carpet, including skier Lindsey Vonn in a fringed black gown and diamond choker with statement red stones. Figure skaters Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu walked together. He wore belt-leather straps that crossed his chest and she chose a sheer, long-sleeve gown in soft blue.


West Virginia teachers: No raise, no school; strike goes on

Unions representing West Virginia teachers and service personnel say they will stay out on strike after the state Senate voted to cut the 5 percent pay raise they had negotiated with the governor.

A joint legislative committee has been formed to address differences in the pay raise bills of the state Senate and House.

In a joint statement Saturday, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association said Senate President Mitch Carmichael and his leadership team had left them with no choice after they voted to reduce the raise to 4 percent.

The statement said all public schools in West Virginia would be closed again Monday “and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made.” Teachers walked out of classrooms statewide starting Feb. 22.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Saturday evening to approve the lower pay raise, bucking teachers, Republican Gov. Jim Justice and the Republican-controlled House, which approved the 5 percent raise Wednesday.


Slovak leader urges govt changes amid crisis over reporter

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovak President Andrej Kiska called Sunday for substantial changes in the country’s coalition government or for an early election to resolve the “serious political crisis” resulting from the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee.

His rival, Prime Minister Robert Fico, dismissed the president’s proposals.

For his last unfinished story, 27-year-old Kuciak reported on the influence of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and its possible ties to people close to the prime minister. The journalist and fiancee Martina Kusnirova were found fatally shot in their house on Feb. 25.


Tens of thousands of protesters marched in dozens of Slovak cities Friday to honor Kuciak, with some demanding the resignation of Fico’s government.

“There’s a huge public distrust of the state,” Kiska said in a televised speech Sunday. “And many don’t trust law enforcement authorities … This distrust is justified. We crossed the line, things went too far and there’s no way back.”