AP News in Brief 01-18-19

  • A man is mirrored in a puddle as he jogs along the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Trump grounds Pelosi after she imperils his big speech

WASHINGTON — She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her an aircraft to visit troops abroad.

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The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinksmanship, with both flexing their political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.

In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative!” concluded Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker is very rare and Congress was caught off guard.

10 dead in car bombing at police academy in Colombia capital

BOGOTA, Colombia — A car bomb exploded at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia’s capital on Thursday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens in an attack that recalled the bloodiest chapters of the country’s drug-fueled guerrilla conflict.

The scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the aftermath of the midmorning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in Bogota in years.

Videos circulating on social media show panicked officers hauling injured colleagues on stretchers with debris and body parts strewn in front of red tile-roofed cadet barracks. In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the truck used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.

President Ivan Duque rushed back to the capital with his top military advisers from a visit to a western state to oversee the police investigation, which points to a possible suicide bombing – something unprecedented in decades of political violence in the Andean nation.

Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas, driving a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 pounds) of pentolite, carried out the attack. He said the car had its last official mechanical revision some six months ago in the eastern state of Arauca, along the border with Venezuela.

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

WASHINGTON — Giant rocks from space are falling from the sky more than they used to, but don’t worry.

For the past 290 million years, large asteroids have been crashing into Earth more than twice as often as they did in the previous 700 million years, according to a new study in Thursday’s journal Science .

But no need to cast a wary glance up. Asteroids still only smack Earth on average every million or few million years, even with the increased crash rate. NASA’s list of potential big space rock crashes shows no pending major threats. The biggest known risk is a 4,200-foot (1.3-km) wide asteroid with a 99.988 percent chance that it will miss Earth when it whizzes very near here in 861 years.

Tell that to the dinosaurs. Most scientists think dinosaurs and a lot of other species went extinct after a huge space rock crashed into Central America about 65 million years ago.

“It’s just a game of probabilities,” said study lead author Sara Mazrouei, a University of Toronto planetary scientist. “These events are still rare and far between that I’m not too worried about it.”

Was there collusion? Giuliani contradicts previous stance

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani now says he “never said there was no collusion” between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 White House campaign, contradicting public positions that he and his client have taken.

Giuliani, who previously called the idea of Russian collusion “total fake news,” appears to have left open the possibility of improper contacts, in light of court filings in the past year that have detailed ties between Trump aides and Russia.

After his comments in a CNN interview Wednesday night, the former New York City mayor tried to clarify what he meant.

“I represent only the president, not the campaign,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “And I can only speak of what I know, and that is that I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign illegally colluded with Russia. But I can only speak definitively about the president, as he is my client.”

In a separate statement Thursday, he said that “there was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form” and that he had “no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”

Judge acquits 3 Chicago officers of Laquan McDonald cover-up

CHICAGO — A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, ruling that the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager’s death did not necessarily tell the whole story.

In casting off the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected by jurors who in October convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

The judge said the video represented merely one perspective of the confrontation and that there was no indication the officers tried to hide evidence.

From wire sources

“The evidence shows just the opposite,” she said. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.

McDonald’s family questioned how the two cases could produce such different decisions. His great uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, told reporters that the verdict means “that if you are a police officer you can lie, cheat and steal.”

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Opioid crisis brings unwanted attention to wealthy family

BOSTON — The Sackler name is emblazoned on the walls at some of the world’s great museums and universities, including the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim and Harvard. But now the family’s ties to OxyContin and the painkiller’s role in the deadly opioid crisis are bringing the Sacklers a new and unwanted kind of attention and complicating their philanthropic legacy.

The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, the privately held drug company that has made billions from OxyContin, and Sacklers hold most of the seats on the board.

Members of the family have been accused in a case brought by the state of Massachusetts of deceiving patients and doctors about the drug’s risks as deaths mounted. And documents recently released in the case shine new light on former Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler’s role in the aggressive marketing of the powerful opioid.

As the allegations mount, family members who made their fortunes well before OxyContin even went on the market have sought to distance themselves from their relatives.

At the same time, activists have called on institutions to cut ties with the Sacklers, staging protests at museums that have received millions in donations.

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro makes stumbling start as president

SAO PAULO — A few days after being inaugurated, new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced a tax increase, only to have his chief-of-staff say hours later that the boss “had been wrong.”

The former army captain also said he would be open to putting a U.S. base in his country, but military leaders quickly squashed the idea.

And the day after the nascent administration announced plans to abolish a land-reform program, officials said it would actually remain intact.

The far-right leader’s first two weeks on the job have been filled with missteps and communication gaffes and little of his promised sweeping changes — underscoring a steep learning curve for a president elected on promises to overhaul much of daily life in Latin America’s largest nation.

“He has never been in the executive, his party is totally new to high offices and few members of his cabinet have experience,” said Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo. “It seems they are paralyzed by how complex Brazil’s state is and also by internal disagreements.”

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Netflix has no plans to cut ‘Bird Box’ scene despite outcry

NEW YORK — Netflix’s post-apocalyptic survival film “Bird Box” is drawing criticism for using footage of a real fiery train disaster but the streaming giant has no plans to remove it.

The footage concerns a 2013 tragedy in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic when an unattended train carrying crude oil rolled down an incline, came off the tracks and exploded into a massive ball of fire, killing 47 people.

Netflix licensed the footage of the disaster from the stock image vendor Pond 5 and used it in “Bird Box” in an early TV news montage to set up its horrific premise. The Sandra Bullock-led thriller is about monstrous entities that compel any human who sees them to quickly try to kill themselves. To survive, they don blindfolds.

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In a statement to The Associated Press, Pond 5 said the footage “was taken out of context” and the company wanted to “sincerely apologize.” Pond 5 footage of the crash was also used in Netflix’s “Travelers.”

But a Netflix spokesman told the AP on Thursday that it wasn’t planning to cut the footage from “Bird Box,” saying, “We will keep the clip in the movie.” But he acknowledged that Netflix will be looking at ways to do things differently moving forward.

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