AP News in Brief 05-11-18

  • Israeli missiles hit air defense position and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria in the early morning hours of Thursday. (Syrian Central Military Media/via AP)

Israel, Iran engage in most serious confrontation in Syria

BEIRUT — Israeli forces unleashed a heavy bombardment against Iranian military installations in Syria on Thursday in what Israel called retaliation for an Iranian rocket barrage on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights, the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

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The two rivals have long fought each other through proxies, and with the new exchange each seemed to be sending a warning that a direct clash between them could swiftly escalate.

“If we get rain, they’ll get a flood,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned.

The scope of the attacks — which Israel called its largest in Syria since the 1973 Mideast war — raised the specter of a full-fledged war between Iran and Israel in Syria, a conflict that could potentially drag the militant Hezbollah and Lebanon into the mix with devastating effects, although both sides appeared to signal they wanted the confrontation to remain contained, at least for now.

What’s that smell? Flower town’s shift to pot creates stink

CARPINTERIA, Calif. — This picturesque coastal town cradled by mountains and sandy shores is a scene out of a Southern California postcard. Residents of Carpinteria say they feel lucky to live in what they consider a slice of paradise.

But change is in the air. And sometimes, they say, it stinks.

That’s because marijuana has become a new crop of choice in the farmlands surrounding this tight-knit community of 14,000, which has long helped fuel the U.S. cut flower industry.

Residents say a thick, skunk-like odor from the marijuana plants settles over the valley in the evenings and before dawn. To keep out the stench, they have tried stuffing pillows under doors, lighting incense and shutting windows, a reluctant choice since it also keeps out the cool ocean breezes that are part of the town’s allure.

“We don’t want a marijuana smell,” said Xave Saragosa, a 73-year-old retired sheriff’s deputy who was born and raised in the town and lives near a greenhouse that grows marijuana. “We want fresh air.”

From wire sources

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Mahathir Malaysia’s leader again after ruling party booted

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, cementing a stunning political comeback and a historic change in government after leading opposition parties to their first election victory in six decades.

The ceremony before Malaysia’s king at the official state palace in Kuala Lumpur ended a day of uncertainty during which rumors swirled that the National Front, Malaysia’s perennial ruling party, would try to stay in power. People waiting outside the palace cheered, waved opposition flags and sounded car horns.

The election result is a political earthquake for the Muslim-majority country, sweeping aside the 60-year rule of the National Front and its leader Najib Razak, whose reputation was tarnished by a monumental corruption scandal, a crackdown on dissent and a new sales tax that hurt his coalition’s poor rural supporters.

It was also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million people where governments of countries including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule. Amnesty International said Malaysia’s first-ever change in government is an opportunity to “eradicate repressive policies” and put human rights first.

“We need to have this government today without delay,” Mahathir, 92, said before the ceremony. “There is a lot of work to be done. You know the mess the country is in and we need to attend to this mess as soon as possible and that means today.”

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In tearful interview, Weinstein’s wife says she didn’t know

NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein’s estranged wife, Georgina Chapman, has given her first interview since scandal erupted around her husband, saying that she never knew about his alleged sexual misconduct, and breaking down in sobs when speaking about their two small children.

In an interview in Vogue’s June issue , posted online Thursday, Chapman says she had “what I thought was a very happy marriage. I loved my life.” Asked if she had suspicions about her husband’s behavior, she says: “Absolutely not. Never.”

“There was a part of me that was terribly naive — clearly, so naive,” she says at another point. “I have moments of rage, I have moments of confusion, I have moments of disbelief! And I have moments when I just cry for my children. What are their lives going to be? What are people going to say to them?” Her interviewer writes that Chapman breaks down in tears at this point. “It’s like, they love their dad. They love him. I just can’t bear it for them!”

The interview comes seven months after Chapman announced she was divorcing Weinstein, who has been accused by dozens of women of sexual abuse, including assault and rape. After issuing that statement, she has remained out of public view. Her fashion line, Marchesa, which she co-founded with Keren Craig, canceled its show for February’s New York Fashion Week, and Marchesa gowns were nowhere to be seen at awards shows like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

But this week, it appeared that Marchesa was inching toward a comeback. On Monday, actress Scarlett Johansson became the first star to wear the label again — on the highly visible Met Gala red carpet, no less, in a deep red gown with flower appliques.

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Q&A: Cohen’s ties to Trump, corporate clients pose questions

WASHINGTON — Attorney Michael Cohen’s simultaneous relationship with Donald Trump and several blue chip companies that paid him for insight into the new president strikes legal experts as unusual and has triggered questions about client confidentiality.

Cohen’s arrangement stands out, even in Washington where corporations, trade associations and other organizations spend upward of $3 billion annually to influence legislation and get access to the highest levels of government. He appears to have worked as Trump’s personal lawyer while at the same time accepting tens of thousands of dollars from third parties to disclose information about his client.

“If Cohen was representing the president as an attorney, which he has certainly argued was the case, then Cohen’s obligations as a member of the bar would seemingly make this arrangement troubling,” said Josh Rosenstein, a partner with the Washington firm Sandler Reiff and a specialist in lobbying compliance.

Rosenstein said that if Cohen had Trump’s permission to reveal confidential information about him, then the implications may be significant. For example, it may be possible evidence that Trump knew what Cohen was doing and was involved, he said.

“So the devil is in the details,” Rosenstein said. “What did the president believe these payments would be used for? What did the president believe he was giving to the companies in exchange for the payments?”

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In taking on high drug prices, Trump faces a complex nemesis

WASHINGTON — Before taking office, President Donald Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry and accused it of “getting away with murder.”

The populist rhetoric appears to be giving way to a more nuanced strategy focused on making the pharmaceutical market more open and competitive, with the aim of lowering costs for consumers.

It’s an approach that could avoid a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but it could also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

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On Friday, Trump is scheduled to give his first speech on an overarching plan to lower drug prices. Administration officials previewing the speech Thursday touted it as the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug costs that any president has ever proposed, but offered few specifics.

Officials said the plan would increase competition, create incentives for drugmakers to lower initial prices and slash federal rules that make it harder for private insurers to negotiate lower prices. The result would be lower pharmacy costs for patients — a key Trump campaign promise.

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