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AP news in brief

Updated: 
October 22, 2017 - 12:05am

Funeral held for US soldier at center of Trump fight

COOPER CITY, Fla. — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

Some of the 1,200 mourners exiting the church after Saturday’s service said the portrait of Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was joined on stage by photographs of his slain comrades. The four died Oct. 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State. Johnson’s family asked reporters to remain outside for the service.

“We have to remember that one thing: that it wasn’t just one soldier who lost his life,” said Berchel Davis, a retired police officer who has six children in the military. He said the preacher and Rep. Frederica Wilson both made that a part of their talks. “That was a good gesture on everyone’s part.”

He and others said the fight between Trump and Wilson was never mentioned during the service.

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, were killed along with La David Johnson in Niger.

Trump: no plans to block release of JFK records

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he doesn’t plan to block the scheduled release of thousands of never publicly seen government documents related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

“Subject to the receipt of further information,” he wrote in a Saturday morning tweet, “I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

The National Archives has until Thursday to disclose the remaining files related to Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. The trove is expected to include more than 3,000 documents that have never been seen by the public and more than 30,000 that have been previously released but with redactions.

Congress mandated in 1992 that all assassination documents be released within 25 years, but Trump has the power to block them on the grounds that making them public would harm intelligence or military operations, law enforcement or foreign relations.

“Thank you. This is the correct decision. Please do not allow exceptions for any agency of government,” tweeted Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of a book about Kennedy, who has urged the president to release the files. “JFK files have been hidden too long.”

Foreigners who joined IS likely dead in Raqqa

PARIS — The forces fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group in Syria have tacit instructions on dealing with the foreigners who joined the extremist group by the thousands: Kill them on the battlefield.

As they made their last stand in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, an estimated 300 extremists holed up in and around a sports stadium and a hospital argued among themselves about whether to surrender, according to Kurdish commanders leading the forces that closed in. The final days were brutal — 75 coalition airstrikes in 48 hours and a flurry of desperate IS car bombs that were easily spotted in the sliver of devastated landscape still under militant control.

No government publicly expressed concern about the fate of its citizens who left and joined the Islamic State fighters plotting attacks at home and abroad. In France, which has suffered repeated violence claimed by the Islamic State — including the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks in Paris — Defense Minister Florence Parly was among the few to say it aloud.

“If the jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that’s for the best,” Parly told Europe 1 radio last week.

Those were the orders, according to the U.S.

54 Egyptian police killed in ambush, say officials

CAIRO — At least 54 policemen, including 20 officers and 34 conscripts, were killed when a raid on a militant hideout southwest of Cairo was ambushed, officials said Saturday. The ensuing firefight was one of the deadliest for Egyptian security forces in recent years.

Two police officials told The Associated Press that the exchange of fire began late Friday in the al-Wahat al-Bahriya area in Giza province, about 135 kilometers (84 miles) southwest of Cairo.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

The firefight began when security forces acting on intelligence moved against a militants’ hideout in the area. Backed by armored personnel carriers and led by senior counterterrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the officials.

The officials said what happened next is not clear, but added that the force likely ran out of ammunition and that the militants captured several policemen and later killed them.

Unforgiving wildfires affect vineyard workers and owners

SONOMA, Calif. — When the wildfires ignited, vineyard workers stopped picking grapes and fled for their lives. Some vineyard owners decided to stay and fight back, spending days digging firebreaks and sleeping among their vines for safety.

As the danger drew closer, grape pickers spread word of the threat and helped neighbors pack their homes. The owner of an elite golf resort abandoned his home to try to save his golf course.

The deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history imperiled both the low-wage workers who harvest the nation’s most valuable wine grapes and the wealthy entrepreneurs who employ them. Vintners and laborers both struggled to preserve the things most precious to them — families, belongings and businesses.

On the public beach campgrounds where hundreds of evacuees escaped the flames, the affluent slept alongside migrant workers and combed through donated supplies.

“We had people in Mercedes and Lexuses showing up” with soot on their faces after losing everything, said Patty Ginochio, a volunteer who helped feed, house and clothe evacuees. Even some of the well-off “had nothing but the clothes on their back. It’s humbling.”

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After Raqqa, Trump says US shifts to ‘new phase’ in Syria

STERLING, Va. — President Donald Trump is portraying the Islamic State group’s ouster from its Syrian stronghold as a milestone in the U.S. fight against terrorism and a step toward a political transition and lasting peace in Syria.

That assessment, in a statement released Saturday, runs counter to warnings in recent days from his national security aides that the militants remain fully capable of striking American interests. And there are no signs of an impending political transition, with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government newly strengthened.

Kurdish-led forces on Friday declared victory in Raqqa, the extremists’ self-declared capital, where they had terrorized the population for four years.

Trump called it “a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology” and said “the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.”

He cited his efforts to empower U.S. military forces on the ground, and repeated his claim that more had been done to defeat the group in recent months “than in the past several years.”

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Court, for now, blocks immigrant teen’s access to abortion

WASHINGTON — An appeals court is blocking, for now, an abortion sought by a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant being held in a Texas facility, ruling that the government should have time to try to release her so she can obtain the abortion outside of federal custody.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its ruling Friday hours after arguments from lawyers for the Trump administration and the teenager. The court ruled 2-1 that the government should have until Oct. 31 to release the girl into the custody of a sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States. If that happens, she could obtain an abortion if she chooses. If she isn’t released, the case can go back to court.

The judge who dissented wrote that the court’s ruling means the teen will be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy for “multiple more weeks.”

The teen, whose name and country of origin have been withheld because she’s a minor, is 15 weeks pregnant. She entered the U.S. in September and learned she was pregnant while in custody in Texas.

She obtained a court order Sept. 25 permitting her to have an abortion. But federal officials have refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others may take her to have an abortion. A lower federal court ruled that she should be able to obtain an abortion Friday or Saturday, but the government appealed.

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Spanish PM aims to take over Catalan govt; residents aghast

BARCELONA, Spain — Spain announced an unprecedented plan Saturday to sack Catalonia’s separatist leaders, install its own people in their place and call a new local election, using previously untapped constitutional powers to take control of the prosperous region that is threatening to secede.

Catalonia’s president responded by making a veiled independence threat, telling lawmakers to come up with a plan to counter Spain’s “attempt to wipe out self-government.”

Even moderate Catalans were aghast at the scope of the move, greeting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s announcement with banging pots and honking cars in the streets of Barcelona, the regional capital.

In a televised address late Saturday, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont called Rajoy’s plans to replace him and his cabinet an “attempt to humiliate” Catalonia and an “attack on democracy.” He called on the regional parliament to “debate and decide on the attempt to wipe out our self-government and our democracy, and act accordingly.”

Puigdemont called Rajoy’s move the “the worst attack” on Catalan people and institutions since Gen. Francisco Franco’s abolishment of Catalonia’s regional government in 1939.

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This week in odd news: Bathtub gator; Too fat for prison?

BROKE? NOPE. MAN SAYS HE’S PENNILESS, BUT DEPUTIES FIND $4K ON HIM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio defendant who vowed he was penniless and couldn’t pay a fine now faces a big one after deputies escorting him from court found he had over $4,000 in his clothes.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that 36-year-old Lawrence Knox swore he was indigent during an Oct. 5 hearing after pleading guilty to a drug charge in Franklin County court. Deputies taking him to be processed for his six-year prison sentence then found he had $4,060 on him.

When the judge learned that, he gave Knox the maximum fine of $20,000, plus court costs.

About half the discovered cash was ordered to go to Knox’s attorney, Michael Hayes, who’d been shorted on his fees. The rest was applied toward the fine.

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