AP News in Brief 02-12-18

Trump support vital as Congress tackles immigration issue

WASHINGTON — The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the “Dreamer” immigrants on Monday, and Republican senators say they’ll introduce President Donald Trump’s plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.

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If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he’ll say something that undermines the effort.

Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president’s blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.

Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.

“The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him,” is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. “I don’t know how far he’ll go, but I do think he’d like to fix it.”

New York attorney general files lawsuit against Weinstein

NEW YORK — New York’s attorney general on Sunday filed a lawsuit against disgraced Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

“As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in court papers.

Schneiderman launched a civil rights probe into the New York City-based company in October after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades.

Scores of women, including well-known actresses, have come forward with stories of forced sexual encounters. Weinstein was fired by the film company he founded with his brother Robert and expelled from Hollywood’s movie academy.

“To work for Harvey Weinstein was to work under a persistent barrage of gender-based obscenities, vulgar name-calling, sexualized interactions, threats of violence, and a workplace general hostile to women,” according to court papers.

Dems taking another run at blocked memo on Russia probe

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are prepared to black out parts of their memo about the FBI’s Russia investigation to ensure there’s no harmful spilling of secrets, then try again to get President Donald Trump to let it come out. A White House aide said Sunday he’s confident it will be released once Democrats “clean it up.”

That possible nudge toward progress came as both sides traded steamy recriminations over the matter.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump is putting his personal interest above the country’s in blocking a memo that “completely undermines his claim of vindication” in special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian interests and Russia’s meddling in the election. “The president doesn’t want the public to see the underlying facts,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The White House legislative director, Marc Short, countered that Democrats padded their memo with sensitive information, knowing Trump would stop its release, in an effort to make him look obstructionist.

“We’re not afraid of transparency,” Short said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I think you’re going to see us release the memo.”

From wire sources

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Russian airliner crashes moments after takeoff, killing 71

MOSCOW — A Russian airliner that had just taken off from the country’s second-busiest airport crashed Sunday, killing all 71 people aboard and scattering jagged chunks of wreckage across a snowy field outside Moscow.

The pilots of the An-148 regional jet did not report any problems before the twin-engine aircraft plunged into the field about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Domodedovo Airport, authorities said.

The Saratov Airlines flight disappeared from radar just minutes after departure for the city of Orsk, some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the southeast.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov confirmed that there were no survivors.

The 65 passengers ranged in age from 5 to 79, according to a list posted by the Russian Emergencies Ministry, which did not give their nationalities. Six crew members were also aboard.

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3 dead, 4 rescued after Grand Canyon helicopter crash

PHOENIX — Four survivors of a deadly tour helicopter crash onto the jagged rocks of the Grand Canyon were being treated at a Nevada hospital on Sunday while crews tackled difficult terrain in a remote area to try to recover the bodies of three other people.

Six British tourists and a pilot were on board the Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters chopper when it crashed under unknown circumstances on Saturday evening on the Hualapai Nation’s land near Quartermaster Canyon, by the Grand Canyon’s West Rim. A witness said he saw flames and black smoke spewing from the crash site, heard explosions and saw victims who were bleeding and badly burned.

“It’s just horrible,” witness Teddy Fujimoto said. “And those victims — she was so badly burned. It’s unimaginable, the pain.”

Windy conditions, darkness and the rugged terrain made it difficult to reach the helicopter’s wreckage, Hualapai Nation police Chief Francis Bradley said. Rescue crews had to fly in, walk to the crash site and use night vision goggles to find their way around, he said.

The survivors were airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital by around 2 a.m. Sunday, Bradley said.

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Trump budget plan already outdated after budget deal

WASHINGTON — In a twist on Washington’s truism about presidential budgets being D.O.A., President Donald Trump’s 2019 fiscal plan due Monday is dead before it gets there.

The original plan was for Trump’s new budget to slash domestic agencies even further than last year’s proposal, but instead it will land in Congress three days after he signed a two-year budget agreement that wholly rewrites both plans.

Trump’s Monday submission was completed before the budget pact delivered the nearly $300 billion increase above prior “caps” on spending. The 2019 budget was designed to double down on last year’s proposals to slash foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, home heating assistance and other nondefense programs funded by Congress each year.

“A lot of presidents’ budgets are ignored. But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored,” said Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “In fact, Congress passed a law week that basically undid the budget before it was even submitted.”

Trump would again spare Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare as he promised during the 2016 campaign. And while his plan would reprise last year’s attempt to scuttle the “Obamacare” health law and sharply cut back the Medicaid program for the elderly, poor and disabled, Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have signaled there’s no interest in tackling hot-button health issues during an election year.

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Kenworthy embracing LGBT flag-bearer role in Pyeongchang

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — At the Sochi Games, he was the medal-winning athlete who overshadowed that achievement by rescuing five stray dogs. In Pyeongchang, he’s vacuuming up attention with his “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it” posts and photos of him kissing skater Adam Rippon, and taking swipes at U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Eventually, Gus Kenworthy hopes, he’ll be talked about more for his skiing, the insane tricks and risks he and other slopestylers take negotiating the big jumps and zany rails of the Olympic course.

By vigorously embracing an unofficial role as Olympic flag-bearer for the LGBT community, Kenworthy is edging sport closer to the point where being a gay athlete is no longer even an issue.

That, at least, is his plan. But sports’ aren’t there yet. Proof? Well, for starters: The people who have confided to him at these games that they are gay but haven’t yet taken the step he took in 2015 to say so publicly.

“That’s been insane to me, and I think it also just shows that there’s a lot more of us,” Kenworthy said in an interview Sunday. “But it’s still kind of a condemning time and hopefully one day it won’t be.”

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New gold rush: Energy demands soar in Iceland for bitcoins

KEFLAVIK, Iceland — Iceland is expected to use more energy “mining” bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes.

With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, large virtual currency companies have established a base in the North Atlantic island nation blessed with an abundance of renewable energy.

The new industry’s relatively sudden growth prompted lawmaker Smari McCarthy of Iceland’s Pirate Party to suggest taxing the profits of bitcoin mines. The initiative is likely to be well received by Icelanders, who are skeptical of speculative financial ventures after the country’s catastrophic 2008 banking crash.

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“Under normal circumstances, companies that are creating value in Iceland pay a certain amount of tax to the government,” McCarthy told The Associated Press. “These companies are not doing that, and we might want to ask ourselves whether they should.”

The energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies. Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.

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