AP News in Brief 09-09-18

North Korea to fete 70th birthday with tanks, dancing masses

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Workers with paint brushes and brooms put the final touches on Pyongyang’s iconic Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday as North Korea prepared for what promises to be its biggest celebration in years — the 70th anniversary of the country’s official birth as a nation.

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The spectacle, months in the making, will center on a military parade and mass games that will likely put both advanced missiles and leader Kim Jong Un’s hopes for a stronger economy front and center.

Although North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday’s parade comes at a particularly sensitive time.

Kim’s effort to ease tensions with U.S. President Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearization first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.

With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.

Catholic faithful demand change after sex abuse scandals

MINNEAPOLIS — The day after a grand jury report revealed that Roman Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children over decades, Adrienne Alexander went to Mass at a Chicago church and waited for the priest to say something about the situation.

He didn’t. And that left Alexander fuming. So she went on Facebook to vent — then organized a prayer vigil in Chicago that became the catalyst for similar laity-led vigils in Boston, Philadelphia and other cities nationwide.

Alexander is among countless Catholics in the U.S. who are raising their voices in prayer and protest to demand change amid new revelations of sex abuse by priests and allegations of widespread cover-ups. They are doing letter-writing campaigns and holding prayer vigils and listening sessions in an effort to bring about change from the pews, realizing it’s up to them to confront the problem and save the church they love after years of empty promises from leadership.

“I think it’s important that the large body hears from us,” Alexander said. “We actually make up the church.”

Their grassroots efforts are gaining momentum. In the last week more than 39,000 people have signed their names to a letter demanding answers from Pope Francis himself.

For Sessions, Trump’s constant attacks may define his legacy

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vigorously pushed President Donald Trump’s agenda at the Justice Department, and before that, spent 20 years championing conservative causes in the Senate.

Yet as Sessions enters what may be the final stretch of his tenure, those efforts are at risk of being eclipsed by his boss’ relentless verbal jabs that have made the attorney general seem like a perpetual presidential punching bag. It’s a role Sessions never sought but perhaps could have anticipated.

The steady diatribes, most recently a tweet excoriating Sessions for the federal indictments of two Republican congressmen, reflect Trump’s single-minded outrage over the special counsel’s Russia investigation and are all the more striking because Sessions is the cabinet member most clearly aligned with Trump’s values.

From wire sources

The treatment has largely overshadowed the attorney general’s work on violent crime, illegal immigration and opioid addiction, clouding a legacy that in other times would be more broadly cheered in conservative circles.

“There are folks that ask me constantly, ‘What’s wrong with Sessions?’” said former Cincinnati mayor Ken Blackwell, a longtime friend who says the criticism is “eroding what otherwise would be a very respectable portfolio.”

Obama, on campaign swing, urges ‘sanity in our politics’

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Former President Barack Obama said Saturday that November midterm elections would give Americans “a chance to restore some sanity in our politics,” taking another swipe at his successor as he raises his profile campaigning for fellow Democrats to regain control of the House.

Obama didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name during a 20-minute speech in the key Southern California battleground of Orange County but the allusions were clear.

“We’re in a challenging moment because, when you look at the arc of American history, there’s always been a push and pull between those who want to go forward and those who want to look back, between those who want to divide and those are seeking to bring people together, between those who promote the politics of hope and those who exploit the politics of fear,” he said.

His appearance — one day after a strongly worded critique of Trump at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — touched on themes of retirement security, climate change and education.

“If we don’t step up, things can get worse,” the former president told the audience at the Anaheim Convention Center. “In two months, we have the chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We have the chance to flip the House of Representatives and make sure there are real checks and balances in Washington.”

Powerful hurricane could be headed to US

ATLANTA — The U.S. East Coast could be hit with a powerful hurricane next week as Tropical Storm Florence continues to strengthen as it moves toward the mainland, forecasters said Saturday.

Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that “a significant phase of intensification” is expected late Saturday.

The Miami-based weather center said although the storm could intensify to a Category 4 hurricane by midweek, its path was still unclear.

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“Florence is forecast to be a dangerous major hurricane near the southeast U.S. coast by late next week, and the risk of direct impacts continues to increase,” the hurricane center said Saturday.

Officials in the Carolinas warned residents to prepare and to brace for impact.