AP News in Brief 12-17-18

  • Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks at the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and democracy in Washington on May 5. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

  • People once again return to the streets as Strasbourg’s Christmas market reopens under the protection of police, in Strasbourg, France, Saturday. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

White House digs in on border wall demand, risking shutdown

WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday pushed the federal government closer to the brink of a partial shutdown later this week, digging in on its demand for $5 billion to build a border wall as congressional Democrats stood firm against it.

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“We will do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of immigration,” said White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.

Asked if that meant having a government shutdown, he said: “If it comes to it, absolutely.”

Trump said last week he would be “proud” to have a shutdown to get Congress to approve a $5 billion down payment to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But the president doesn’t have the votes from the Republican-controlled Congress to support funding for the wall at that level.

Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have proposed no more than $1.6 billion, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. The money would not go for the wall but for fencing upgrades and other border security. Democrats also offered to simply keep funding at its current level, $1.3 billion.

Giuliani: ‘Over my dead body’ will Mueller interview Trump

WASHINGTON — With a number of probes moving closer to the Oval Office, President Donald Trump and his attorney unleased a fresh series of attacks Sunday on the investigators, questioning their integrity while categorically ruling out the possibility of a presidential interview with the special counsel.

Trump and Rudy Giuliani used Twitter and television interviews to deliver a series of broadsides against special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York. Giuliani said he was “disgusted” by the tactics used by Mueller in his probe into Russian election interference, including in securing guilty pleas from the president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn on a charge of lying to federal investigators.

Trump, Giuliani said, would not submit to an interview by Mueller’s team.

“They’re a joke,” Giuliani told “Fox News Sunday.” ”Over my dead body, but, you know, I could be dead.”

The special counsel, who is investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has continued to request an interview with the president. Last month, the White House sent written answers in response to the special counsel’s questions about possible collusion. The White House has resisted answering questions on possible obstruction of justice.

Talks adopt ‘rulebook’ to put Paris climate deal into action

KATOWICE, Poland — Almost 200 nations, including the world’s top greenhouse gas producers, China and the United States, have adopted a set of rules meant to breathe life into the 2015 Paris climate accord by setting out how countries should report their emissions and efforts to reduce them.

But negotiators delayed other key decisions until next year — a move that frustrated environmentalists and countries that wanted more ambitious goals in light of scientists’ warnings that the world must shift sharply away from fossil fuels in the coming decade.

“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up” to the dire consequences of global warming as outlined in a report by the U.N Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

Officials at the talks, which ended late Saturday in the Polish city of Katowice, agreed upon universal rules on how nations can cut emissions. Poor countries secured assurances on financial support to help them reduce emissions, adapt to changes such as rising sea levels and pay for damage that has already happened.

“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official who led the talks.

French city honors victims of Christmas market attack

PARIS — People filled a square in the French city of Strasbourg on Sunday to show respect and sympathy for the victims of last week’s shooting attack near a famous Christmas market as the death toll rose to five.

French authorities said a Polish man died in a Strasbourg hospital Sunday, one of a dozen people wounded in last Tuesday’s attack. Poland’s Foreign Ministry extended condolences Sunday on Twitter to his family.

According to the newspaper DNA, more than 1,000 people attended the memorial, which ended with a minute of applause and a rendition of France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”

The hour-long ceremony took place in Kleber Square, not far from where a gunman opened fire on Tuesday evening. Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries praised the city’s resilience in the face of hardship.

The “extremely large crowd in the Christmas market” on Saturday “was an illustration of our commitment to these values on which our living together is based, which we will continue to defend against all those who want to attack it,” Ries said.

Not into bingo, 84-year-old Texas woman gets college degree

RICHARDSON, Texas — After raising five kids and retiring at age 77 from her secretarial job, Janet Fein couldn’t be blamed for finally relaxing, but that’s not her.

Fein, now 84, went to back to school and will accomplish a long-held goal this week when she graduates from the University of Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree.

“I didn’t have anything to do in retirement and I didn’t think that playing bingo was up to my speed,” said Fein, who majored in sociology because she felt it was “substantial.”

She said she enjoyed all the reading and writing papers. “With each class I already knew a lot, but then I also learned a lot. And that made me happy,” she said.

People 65 and older make up less than 1 percent of U.S. college students. In 2015, they accounted for about 67,000 of about 20 million college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Next-generation of GPS satellites are headed to space

DENVER — After months of delays, the U.S. Air Force is about to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, designed to be more accurate, secure and versatile.

But some of their most highly touted features will not be fully available until 2022 or later because of problems in a companion program to develop a new ground control system for the satellites, government auditors said.

The satellite is scheduled to lift off Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It’s the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites that will replace older ones now in orbit. Lockheed Martin is building the new satellites outside Denver.

GPS is best-known for its widespread civilian applications, from navigation to time-stamping bank transactions. The Air Force estimates 4 billion people worldwide use the system.

But it was developed by the U.S. military, which still designs, launches and operates the system. The Air Force controls a constellation of 31 GPS satellites from a high-security complex at Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs.

From wire sources

After fraud probe, new primary may replace GOP candidate

RALEIGH, N.C. — Legislation quickly passed by North Carolina’s lawmakers this week would prepare a path for Republicans to dump their nominee in a still-undecided U.S. House race marred with ballot fraud allegations.

“I think (legislators are) worried that Mark Harris might be damaged goods and they want to have the opportunity to have a different Republican nominee,” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican operative and consultant to former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and others for more than 40 years. “That’s how I read those tea leaves.”

If the state elections board decides ballot irregularities or other problems cast the true outcome into doubt and force a redo, the legislation — if allowed to go into law by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper — would require new primary elections in the 9th Congressional District race, in addition to a new general election.

That would allow Republicans another look at Mark Harris, the Republican who led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial results. Harris hasn’t been certified the winner, and an investigation is looking into missing absentee ballots in rural Bladen County and whether unsealed ballots illegally handled by collection teams there could have been altered.

Bladen was the only county among the eight within the 9th District where Harris won a majority of mail-in absentee ballots over McCready.

‘Spider-Verse’ swings to the top; ‘Mortal Engines’ tanks

LOS ANGELES — “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” swung to the top of the domestic box office in its first weekend in theaters, proving that there is widespread audience interest in big screen animated versions of Marvel’s marquee superheroes.

The film led a host of newcomers that debuted to varying success on this pre-Christmas holiday weekend, including Clint Eastwood’s drug smuggling drama “The Mule” and the Peter Jackson-produced epic “Mortal Engines” which bombed in North American theaters.

“Into the Spider-Verse” earned an estimated $35.4 million from 3,813 theaters against a $90 million production budget according to Sony Pictures on Sunday, which is a record for animated movies in December (although the hybrid “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies were higher). The film features an innovative animation style — both CGI and hand-drawn — and focuses on the Miles Morales character as he learns to become the famed web-slinger. It’s another financial win for the studio’s latest “expanded Spider-Man universe” strategy following “Venom” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

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And “Spider-Verse” has been very well-received among critics, and audiences in exit surveys gave it a rare A+ CinemaScore — a first for a Spider-Man film. It’s also been nominated for a Golden Globe award for best animated feature and picked up a few honors from critics’ groups as well, including the New York Film Critics Circle.

“We are playing to both families and fanboys. We’re an all-audience film,” said Adrian Smith, Sony’s president of domestic distribution.