Tuesday | November 21, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Nation & World briefs: 11-14-17

Updated: 
November 14, 2017 - 9:00pm

Sessions denies lying on Russia, pleads hazy memory

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday displayed a hazy memory of the Trump campaign’s discussions about and dealings with Russians in the 2016 election, denying he ever lied to Congress about those contacts but blaming the chaos of the race for fogging his recollections.

During more than five hours of testimony to Congress, Sessions sought to explain away apparent contradictions in his earlier accounts by citing the exhausting nature of Donald Trump’s upstart but surging bid for the White House. He also denied under repeated questioning from Democrats that he had been influenced by Trump.

But after saying under oath months ago that he was unaware of any relationship between the campaign and Russia, Sessions acknowledged for the first time that the arrest of a low-level campaign adviser reminded him after all of a meeting at which the aide, George Papadopoulos, proposed setting up a get-together between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“After reading his account and to the best of my recollection,” Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee, “I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government for that matter.

“But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago,” he added, “and I would gladly have reported it had I remembered it because I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper.”

^

Gunman picking random targets kills 4 in Northern California

RED BLUFF, Calif. — A gunman choosing targets at random opened fire in a rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing four people at several sites and wounding others at an elementary school before police shot him dead, authorities said.

The gunfire began around 8 a.m. in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, about 130 miles north of Sacramento.

Police offered no immediate word on the assailant’s motive, but a sheriff’s official said the shooter’s neighbors had reported a domestic violence incident.

“It was very clear at the onset that we had an individual that was randomly picking targets,” Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said.

Witnesses reported hearing gunshots and children screaming at an elementary school about five miles down a road from where the shooting is believed to have started.

^

Washington GOP boosts pressure on Alabama party on Moore

WASHINGTON — Washington Republicans tightened pressure Tuesday on Alabama’s GOP to keep a defiant Roy Moore from being elected to the Senate next month, with many voicing hope that President Donald Trump could use his clout to resolve a problem that Republicans say leaves them with no easy options.

With Alabama Republicans reluctant to block Moore and enrage his legions of loyal conservative supporters, national GOP leaders were turning to Trump as their best chance of somehow turning the tide. Two women by name have said Moore molested them in the 1970s when one was 14 and the other 16 and he was a local district attorney, and three others said he pursued romantic relationships with them around the same time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in all-out warfare with Moore, said there’d be conversations about the anti-establishment firebrand after Trump returns Tuesday night from Asia. He said he’d already spoken about Moore to the president, Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

“He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we’ve looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening,” said McConnell, who Monday said he believed Moore’s accusers. “This close to election, it’s a complicated matter.’”

Moore has denied abusing the women but has not ruled out dating teen-agers at the time, when he was in his early 30s.

When child sex isn’t rape: French to set age of consent

PARIS — Is a 13-year-old old enough to agree to sex with an adult? That’s a question France is asking as the government prepares to set a legal age for sexual consent for the first time.

Twice in recent weeks, French courts have refused to prosecute men for rape after they had sex with 11-year-old girls because authorities couldn’t prove coercion. Amid the public disbelief over the situation, the French government is drafting a bill to say that sex with children under a certain age is by definition coercive.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet provoked consternation among feminist groups Monday by saying a legal minimum age of 13 for sexual consent “is worth considering.”

Activists staged a small protest Tuesday in central Paris to argue that the age should be set at 15. Protesters waved placards that read “for him impunity, for her a life sentence” in reference to the recent cases.

“We want the law to guarantee that before 15 there can be no concept of consent,” French feminist activist Caroline de Haas said.

Senate GOP insisting on ‘Obamacare’ repeal for tax overhaul

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans said Tuesday they are intent on repealing the health care law requirement that Americans get health insurance, targeting the provision as a way to finance deep tax cuts in their far-reaching overhaul.

The surprise renewal of the failed effort to repeal the law’s mandate came a day after President Donald Trump renewed pressure on GOP lawmakers to include the repeal in their tax legislation. It has sharp political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office.

The move by Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee upended the debate over the tax measure just as it was inching closer to passage following months of fine-tuning and compromise. It turned the debate into an angry partisan referendum on health care and President Barack Obama’s signature law.

Beyond Trump’s prodding, the repeal move also was dictated by the Republicans’ need to find revenue sources for the massive tax-cut bill that calls for steep reductions in the corporate tax rate and elimination of some popular tax breaks.

“We are optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful; that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

^

Trump in Asia: A break from the past but uncertain results

President Donald Trump declared his first Asian tour “tremendously successful” as he hopped on a plane bound for Washington. But when he lands late Tuesday he’ll arrive with few concrete accomplishments in hand.

As he jetted across the region, to five nations, six cities and three summits over 12 days, Trump pushed regional leaders to reshape trade deals to America’s liking, but he won no firm commitments from his hosts. He opened the door to negotiations with North Korea, but then seemed to shut it again by deriding the dictator Kim Jong Un as “short and fat.”

He did not try to push leaders to end human rights abuses.

Trump has said he’ll have more to say about the trip’s achievements in a “major statement” at the White House this week. The White House would not discuss the details in advance.

The trip did reveal much about Trump’s traveling style. He soaked up the pageantry and was well practiced at the art of flattery.

^

Syria market atrocity shows brokers unconcerned with attacks

BEIRUT — One day after a ferocious attack on a market in northern Syria killed more than 60 people, the collective silence from the three architects of an agreement to ease the fighting in Syria has raised serious questions about their commitment to protect civilians caught in the crossfire of the country’s devastating civil war.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantors of an agreement meant to freeze the lines of conflict in Syria and protect against the sort of horror that befell market-goers in the town of Atareb on Monday.

“It doesn’t seem to matter if we are bombed or not,” said Fayyad Akoush, 26, who escaped from a grocery that was damaged by the attack.

There were at least three airstrikes on the market, which destroyed one building and damaged several others, according to witnesses and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Shoppers were crushed under the rubble or blown apart by the blasts, their limbs torn from their bodies or their heads crushed.

The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue volunteers, known as the White Helmets, told The Associated Press they had given up hope of finding more survivors and were still digging for bodies of the missing more than 24 hours after the attack. They said at least 61 people were killed.

Is gun-maker liable for Newtown? Court takes up the case

HARTFORD, Conn. — Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza heard the message loud and clear when gun-maker Remington Arms marketed an AR-15-style rifle as an overpowering weapon favored by elite military forces, a lawyer for relatives of some victims of the massacre told the Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Lanza, who killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S on Dec. 14, 2012, was obsessed with violent video games and idolized the Army Rangers, attorney Joshua Koskoff said.

Koskoff asked the high court to reinstate a wrongful death lawsuit against Madison, North Carolina-based Remington. He said the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style firearms were designed as military killing machines and are too dangerous for the public, but Remington glorified them and marketed them to a younger demographic that included the 20-year-old Lanza.

“Adam Lanza heard the message,” Koskoff told the justices. “They marketed the weapon for exactly what it was. ...”

^

Climate negotiators look to leaders to boost talks

BONN, Germany — Diplomats began wrapping up negotiations on advancing the Paris climate accord Tuesday at a global conference in Germany, setting the stage for political leaders to fly in and provide a final shot of momentum.

The talks now in their second week are largely technical in nature. But the Trump administration’s threat to pull the U.S. out of the agreement and extreme weather events in many parts of the world have created pressure for other governments at the meeting to strongly affirm their support for the 2015 Paris accord.

Much of the limelight Wednesday is expected to fall on Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is co-hosting the U.N. talks in Bonn with Fiji. Environmental campaigners want Germany to show its commitment to curbing global warming by announcing a deadline for phasing out the use of coal, a major greenhouse gas.

President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, whose country risks being swallowed by the Pacific Ocean if global warming causes sea levels to keep rising, said a declaration that Germany will end its use of coal “would be a signal of hope for my country and for every vulnerable country around the world.”

Merkel will be joined by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has come out strongly in favor of efforts to fight climate change since taking office earlier this year.

By wire sources

Rules for posting comments