Report details harm to Cuba diplomats but offers no cause
WASHINGTON — Doctors are releasing the first detailed medical reports about the hearing, vision, balance and brain symptoms suffered in what the State Department has called “health attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Still missing: A clear diagnosis of just what happened to trigger their mysterious health problems.
All together, the symptoms are similar to the brain dysfunction seen with concussions, concluded a team of specialists from the University of Pennsylvania who tested 21 of the 24 embassy personnel thought to be affected.
Whatever the cause, the Havana patients “experienced persisting disability of a significant nature,” the Penn team concluded.
Cuba has insisted there were no attacks.
The Journal of the American Medical Association released the report late Wednesday, although key findings were first disclosed by The Associated Press in December.
Group of senators reaches immigration deal on Dreamers, wall
WASHINGTON — A group of senators reached a bipartisan agreement Wednesday aimed at balancing Democrats’ fight to offer citizenship to young “Dreamer” immigrants with President Donald Trump’s demands for billions to build his coveted border wall with Mexico, lawmakers said.
Though the measure sprang from around two dozen senators with centrist views on the issue and was winning support from many Democrats, it faced an uncertain fate. Leaders were trying to schedule votes on that plan and three other immigration proposals for Thursday, which they hoped would bring the chamber’s showdown over the hot-button issue to a close.
While not specifically mentioning the bipartisan pact, Trump urged lawmakers to oppose any plan that doesn’t meet his more stringent demands, which include curbs on legal immigration and the abolition of a visa lottery. The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, warned that lawmakers need to address Trump’s entire proposal, saying, “We need to take the president seriously.”
Trump at last denounces abuse
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump at last broke his silence Wednesday to explicitly denounce domestic violence in the wake of allegations that a top White House aide had abused two former wives. Chief of staff John Kelly, under fire for mishandling the matter, stayed largely out of sight, his future in doubt and the White House in tumult.
The chaos surrounding the departure of aide Rob Porter put a harsh spotlight on Kelly, the retired general who was brought on last summer to instill military-like discipline in the free-wheeling West Wing. Questions persisted about what and when Kelly knew about the abuse allegations against Porter, who resigned as staff secretary last week after the accusations became public.
West Wing aides have had their faith in the chief of staff shaken, and morale has plunged to levels not seen since last spring’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the August uproar over Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Porn star who alleged Trump affair: I can now tell my story
NEW YORK — Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom Donald Trump’s attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss an alleged sexual encounter with the man who is now president, her manager told The Associated Press Wednesday.
At the same time, developments in the bizarre case are fueling questions about whether such a payment could violate federal campaign finance laws.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, believes that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published Tuesday: one in which Cohen told The New York Times he made the six-figure payment with his personal funds, and another in the Daily Beast, which reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story, said the manager, Gina Rodriguez.
“Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” Rodriguez said.
At issue is what, exactly, happened inside a Lake Tahoe, Nevada, hotel room in 2006 between Trump, then a reality TV star, and Clifford, who was promoting a porn production company during a celebrity golf tournament.
EPA chief says he flies first class due to security concerns
WASHINGTON — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has broken months of silence about his frequent premium-class flights at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke about his flight costs on Tuesday in a pair of interviews in New Hampshire, following a first-class flight to meet with the state’s Republican governor and tour a toxic waste site.
Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader he had some “incidents” on flights shortly after his appointment by President Donald Trump last year.
“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” said Pruitt, who confirmed to the newspaper that he had flown first class from Washington to Boston before continuing on to New Hampshire. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”
Climber’s death on popular Oregon peak underscores dangers
GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. — Oregon’s tallest peak rises above the streets of downtown Portland, its gorgeous snow-capped slopes luring 10,000 climbers a year.
The picture postcard view of Mount Hood makes it one of the most visited snow-capped peaks in the U.S., a destination to check off during any respectable visit to the City of Roses.
“It just stands there and calls to you — and during clear weather like we’ve had the past couple of days, that mountain is there calling to anyone who’s ever thought about climbing it,” said Mark Morford, spokesman for Portland Mountain Rescue.
But Mount Hood’s accessibility and beauty obscure a treacherous history that once again came into focus Tuesday, when one man plummeted 1,000 (305 meters) feet to his death and three more were stranded on its icy slopes as a storm approached.
More than 130 climbers have died trying to reach the top of the dormant volcano, including a party of school children and teachers who froze to death in 1986 and several climbers whose bodies haven’t been found.
South Africa’s Zuma succumbs to pressure, resigns
JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, ending a turbulent tenure marred by corruption scandals that sapped the popularity of the ruling African National Congress and hurt one of Africa’s biggest economies.
The resignation signaled an imminent end to a leadership crisis in South Africa and set the stage for Zuma to be replaced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a robust campaign against corruption but will quickly face pressure to produce results in a country struggling with unemployment, economic inequity and other problems. Ahead of 2019 elections, Ramaphosa also has the tough task of rebuilding a ruling party whose moral stature has diminished since it took power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” said Zuma, who added that he took the decision even though he disagreed with the ruling party’s demand that he quit immediately or face a motion of no confidence in the parliament on Thursday. Zuma, 75, had said he was willing to resign early from his second five-year term but wanted to stay in office for several more months.”