AP News in Brief 03-03-19

South Korea, US end springtime military drills to back diplomacy

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and the U.S. are eliminating their massive springtime military drills and replacing them with smaller exercises as part of efforts to support diplomacy aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis.

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The decision announced by both countries Sunday is an olive branch to North Korea. But it will likely raise worries about how the allies will maintain their readiness in the event that military tensions erupt again in the wake of the recently failed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Pentagon said in a release the U.S. and South Korean defense chiefs decided to conclude the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of exercises.

It said the allies agreed to maintain firm military readiness through newly designed command post exercises and revised field training programs.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo “made clear that the alliance decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner,” the statement said.

Trump delivers a slashing speech that rouses the right

OXON HILL, Md. — In a slashing speech packed with braggadocio and grievance, President Donald Trump denounced Democrats as the party of “the socialist nightmare,” and took on “sick,” ”lunatic” and “dirty” foes at every turn, earning him the unvarnished adoration of cheering conservatives Saturday.

After a trying week of tumult and setbacks, Trump delivered a stemwinder that extended beyond two hours and hardly left him winded.

Trump let loose against House Democrats, who are broadening their investigations of him, predicted he would win re-election by a greater margin than his 2016 victory, taunted his potential White House challengers and sounded themes that are staples of his rallies. He complained often of getting “no credit” for his achievements as he proudly drifted “off script” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

His remarks capped a week that saw his nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader collapse without an agreement, his former lawyer deliver damaging congressional testimony about his character and business practices and Congress take action to nullify his emergency declaration to secure money for the border wall that lawmakers have denied him.

On the stage, he was a prideful and at times profane figure as he complained that past political appointments had allowed a situation where political foes were trying to take him out with “bullshit.”

China considers law changes on technology to placate US

BEIJING — In an unusual step, China’s ceremonial legislature is due to endorse a law meant to help end a bruising tariff war with Washington by discouraging officials from pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.

The battle with China’s biggest trading partner is overshadowing the National People’s Congress, the country’s highest-profile event of the year. It brings 3,000-plus delegates to the ornate Great Hall of the People in Beijing for two weeks of speeches, meetings with senior leaders and political ritual to endorse the ruling Communist Party’s economic and social welfare plans.

A gathering of noncommunist groups held at the same time brightens Beijing’s drab winter, drawing tech billionaires, movie stars and ethnic minorities in distinctive traditional dress.

That gives President Xi Jinping’s government a platform for advertising changes aimed at ending the fight with President Donald Trump that has disrupted trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment.

The technology measure is part of a proposed law on foreign investment that aims to address complaints by Washington, Europe and other trading partners that China’s system is rigged against foreign companies.

From wire sources

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Sanders returns to NY roots, says he can defeat Trump

NEW YORK — Bernie Sanders kicked off his presidential campaign Saturday miles from the rent-controlled apartment where he grew up in Brooklyn and forcefully made the case that he is nothing like fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, proclaiming himself the Democrat best prepared to beat the incumbent in 2020.

“My experience as a child, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from,” Sanders boomed in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent. “And that is something I will never forget.”

The Democrats in the 2020 race have taken varied approaches to Trump, with some avoiding saying his name entirely, while others make implicit critiques of his presidency. Sanders has never shied from jabbing Trump in stark terms, and during his speech at Brooklyn College, he called Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history” and said the president wants to “divide us up.”

The Vermont senator positioned himself in opposition to Trump administration policies from immigration to climate change. Beyond the issues themselves, Sanders, who grew up in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush in a middle-class family, drew a stark contrast between himself and the billionaire in the White House who hails from Queens.

“I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos and country clubs,” said Sanders, who has lived in Vermont for decades. He pegged his allowance as a kid at 25 cents a week.

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Legalized sports betting unlikely in 3 largest US states

Over the past decade, teams from California, Florida or Texas have competed in more than half the championship series in the four major professional sports — including every NBA final.

That may be no surprise, considering the three states account for 27 percent of all franchises in those leagues. The sheer number of teams and their relative success make them fertile territory for legalizing sports gambling now that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed every state to offer it.

“These states are the brass rings given the size of the populations and the potential opportunity,” said Sara Slane, a spokeswoman for the American Gaming Association.

So far, that ring remains elusive.

A 50-state review of sports gambling legislation by The Associated Press reveals that legalization efforts are nonexistent or very unlikely to happen anytime soon in the nation’s three most populous states, which together hold more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ compromise offered to small theaters

LOS ANGELES — The dozens of community and nonprofit theaters across the U.S. forced to abandon productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” under legal threat were offered an olive branch in the form of Aaron Sorkin’s script for the Broadway version.

Scott Rudin, producer of the New York adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel, had cited an agreement with Lee’s estate in demanding that what he called improperly licensed productions be shut down. Following a backlash in recent days, Rudin said the theater companies could perform the Sorkin play as long as they use his adaptation.

The offer is intended to “ameliorate the hurt caused here,” Rudin said in a statement provided Saturday to The Associated Press. “For these theaters, this is the version that can be offered to them, in concert with our agreement with Harper Lee. We hope they will choose to avail themselves of the opportunity.”

Maybe, maybe not, said the artistic executive director of one of the affected theaters.

“We are interested in the offer and intrigued,” said Seth Miller of the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City. But Rudin has yet to respond to questions that would need to be answered first, including how long the offer is good for, Miller said Saturday.

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3 big US churches in turmoil over sex abuse, LGBT policy

It has been a wrenching season for three of America’s largest religious denominations, as sex-abuse scandals and a schism over LGBT inclusion fuel anguish and anger within the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and United Methodist churches. There’s rising concern that the crises will boost the ranks of young people disillusioned by organized religion.

“Every denomination is tremendously worried about retaining or attracting young people,” said Stephen Schneck, a political science professor at Catholic University. “The sex-abuse scandals will have a spillover effect on attitudes toward religion in general. I don’t think any denomination is going to not take a hit.”

For the U.S. Catholic church, the clergy sex-abuse scandal that has unfolded over two decades expanded dramatically in recent months. Many dioceses have become targets of investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse. In mid-February, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood for sexually abusing minors and seminarians.

The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, confronted its own sex-abuse crisis three weeks ago in the form of an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. The newspapers reported that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who returned to church duties, while leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.

For both denominations, allegations of cover-ups and insufficient sympathy for victims have been as damaging in the public eye as the abuse itself.

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Analysis: GOP senators struggle to escape no-win border vote

WASHINGTON — One by one, the Republican senators floated their ideas. They were trying to find a way out of a seemingly impossible dilemma: how to support President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall without approving the national emergency declaration he invoked to build it.

And one by one, during a private lunchtime meeting that ran hot at times, they found no easy answers.

As a deadline for voting looms, it’s increasingly clear that Republican senators are deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s use of executive power to build the wall and desperate to devise a way around the vote.

Senators know whatever they decide will make history. It’s the first time Congress is voting to terminate a national emergency. Even if Trump vetoes the measure, as expected, it will set precedent for other money grabs by future occupants of the White House.

This is why they tried to talk Trump out of invoking national emergency powers and why they’re now in a no-win situation as they prepare to vote.

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‘Sanctuary’ cities are getting their grants despite threats

MONTPELIER, Vt. — About 18 months after the Trump administration threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from nearly 30 places around the country it felt weren’t doing enough to work with federal immigration agents, all but one have received or been cleared to get the money, the Justice Department said.

In most cases, courts chipped away at the crackdown that escalated in November 2017 with letters from the Justice Department of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to 29 cities, metro areas, counties or states it considered as having adopted “sanctuary policies” saying those policies may violate federal law.

Of those 29 jurisdictions — which include cities as large as Los Angeles and as small as Burlington, Vermont — only Oregon has yet to be cleared to receive the grants from 2017, a Justice Department spokesman told The Associated Press this week.

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Vermont officials announced Monday that they had been told the state Department of Public Safety would be getting $2.3 million in law enforcement grants that had been blocked. Vermont had not joined any of the legal cases, instead corresponding directly with the Justice Department.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, declared victory, saying the money would be used primarily on anti-drug efforts.

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