AP News in Brief 03-07-19

  • A remote camera catches a female gray wolf and her mate with a pup born in 2017 in the wilds of Lassen National Forest in Northern California, June 30, 2017. (U.S. Forest Service/via AP, File)

US to lift gray wolf federal protections

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers as its numbers rebound in some regions.

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The proposal would give states the authority to hold wolf hunting and trapping seasons. It was announced Wednesday by acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt at a wildlife conference in Denver.

Wolves had previously lost federal protections in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where hunters and trappers now kill hundreds of the animals annually.

Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress reacted with outrage to the latest proposal and promised to challenge any final decision in court.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now with the group Defenders of Wildlife, warned of an “all-out war on wolves” if the plan advances.

“We don’t have any confidence that wolves will be managed like other wildlife,” she said.

But government officials countered that the recovery of wolves from widespread extermination last century has worked and they no longer need the Endangered Species Act to shield them.

“Recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act is one of our nation’s great conservation successes, with the wolf joining other cherished species, such as the bald eagle, that have been brought back from the brink,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said in an emailed statement.

Huawei launches court challenge to US security law

SHENZHEN, China — Chinese tech giant Huawei has filed a lawsuit in Plano, Texas, challenging a law that labels the company a security risk and would limit its access to the American market for telecom equipment.

Huawei Technologies Ltd.’s announcement Thursday comes as the biggest global maker of network equipment for phone and internet companies fights U.S. efforts to persuade allies to exclude the company from next-generation telecom systems.

Huawei said its complaint asks a federal court in Plano to throw out a portion of this year’s U.S. military appropriations act that bars the government and its contractors from using Huawei equipment.

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, is at the center of U.S.-Chinese tensions over technology competition and cyber-spying. The company has spent years trying to put to rest accusations it facilitates Chinese spying or is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

Increasingly, both sides appear to be resorting to courts to try to press their cases.

Cohen turns over documents on Moscow project to House panel

WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, turned over documents to lawmakers Wednesday as he tried to back up his claims that a false statement he delivered to Congress in 2017 was edited by the president’s attorneys, two people familiar with the case said.

It’s unclear who edited the documents or what exactly was changed.

But in public testimony last week on Capitol Hill, Cohen said Trump’s attorneys, including Jay Sekulow, had reviewed and edited the written statement he provided to Congress in 2017. Cohen acknowledged in a guilty plea last year that he misled lawmakers by saying he had abandoned the Trump Tower Moscow project in January 2016, when in fact he pursued it for months after that as Trump campaigned for the presidency.

At issue is whether Trump or his lawyers knew that Cohen’s statement to Congress would be false, and whether the attorneys had any direct role in crafting it. Cohen has said he believed the president wanted him to lie, but he also said Trump never directed him to do so. It’s also unclear whether any of the president’s lawyers knew the truth about when the Trump Tower negotiations had ended.

From wire sources

Sekulow has flatly denied ever editing any statement about the duration of the project.

‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek says he has pancreatic cancer

LOS ANGELES — “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek said he has been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer but intends to fight the disease and keep on working.

In a video posted online Wednesday, the 78-year-old said he was announcing his illness directly to “Jeopardy!” fans in keeping with his long-time policy of being “open and transparent.”

He’s among 50,000 other American who receive such a diagnosis each year, Trebek said. Normally, the “prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working.”

Trebek said he plans to beat the disease’s low survival rate with the love and support of family and friends and with prayers from viewers.

He lightened the difficult message with humor: He said he must beat the odds because his “Jeopardy!” contract requires he host the quiz show for three more years.

Gov sees Alabama tornado rubble as residents seek to recover

BEAUREGARD, Ala. — Alabama’s governor walked a country road lined with shattered mobile homes Wednesday as the search for victims of a monstrous tornado ended and residents salvaged what they could from the rubble and planned funerals for the 23 dead.

“Y’all, it’s horrendous, absolutely horrendous,” Gov. Kay Ivey said after touring some of the worst devastation in an area of Lee County where “nothing’s left standing, everything’s in shreds.”

Ivey signed a disaster assistance agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and ordered state flags flown at half-staff until sunset Sunday.

As Ivey surveyed the damage, residents picked through mounds of splintered lumber, twisted metal and broken glass that had once been their homes.

Brooke Waldrop searched for the beloved motorcycle vest of her late stepfather, Marshall Grimes, who had belonged to a Christian motorcycle club.

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Sen. McSally, former Air Force pilot, says officer raped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Martha McSally, the first female Air Force fighter pilot to fly in combat, said Wednesday that she was sexually assaulted by a superior officer, and later, when she tried to talk about it to military officials, she “felt like the system was raping me all over again.”

The Arizona Republican, a 26-year military veteran, made the disclosure at a Senate hearing on the military’s efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve the response when they occur. Lawmakers also heard from other service members who spoke of being sexually assaulted and humiliated while serving their country.

McSally said she did not report being raped because she did not trust the system, and she said she was ashamed and confused. She said she was impressed and grateful to the survivors who came forward to help change the system. She was in the ninth class at the Air Force Academy to allow women, and said sexual harassment and assault were prevalent. Victims mostly suffered in silence, she said.

Reading from a prepared statement, she spoke of her pride in the military and her service to the country and her deep confliction over suffering abuse while doing it. She referred to “perpetrators” who had sexually assaulted her, an indication that she had been attacked more than once. The Senate Armed Services Committee room was silent as she went on. Fellow senators, surprised by her statement, lauded her for coming forward.

“I’m deeply affected by that testimony,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has pushed strongly for changes. At a break, McSally hugged others who were appearing before the committee, including a West Point graduate who detailed being raped by her commander.

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Report: Government kept tabs on journalists, ‘instigators’

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. government ran an operation to screen journalists, activists and others while investigating last year’s migrant caravan from Mexico, a San Diego TV station reported Wednesday, citing leaked documents.

Dossiers that included photos from their passports or social media accounts, date of birth and other details were kept in a database and some freelance journalists had alerts placed on their passports and were flagged for secondary screenings at customs points, the station KNSD-TV said.

One freelance photojournalist was denied entry to Mexico for reasons that were never stated, the station reported.

The documents, in the form of dossiers and screenshots, were provided to NBC 7 Investigates by a Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity, the station reported. Those listed as warranting secondary screening included 10 journalists — seven of them U.S. citizens — a U.S. attorney and 47 people from various countries labeled as organizers, instigators or “unknown,” the station said.

The intelligence-gathering efforts were done under the umbrella of “Operation Secure Line,” which was designed to monitor the caravan of thousands of people who began making their way north from Central America late last year to seek asylum in the United States, the source told the TV station.

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Stacey Abrams: A woman with lots of options

ATLANTA — Stacey Abrams is a woman in demand.

Months removed from her surprisingly narrow defeat in the Georgia governor’s race, Abrams is being heavily recruited to run for Senate, weighing another campaign for governor and even hearing overtures from prominent activists who want her to run for president.

It’s a remarkable turn for a woman who, two years ago, was leading the vastly outnumbered House Democratic caucus at the Georgia Capitol. She now bounces from political gatherings in Las Vegas and Washington to debating societies in Oxford, England, not to mention an Atlanta union hall where she delivered this year’s Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union.

“People are hungry for the kind of leadership Stacey has been exhibiting throughout her campaign and after,” Leah Daughtry, a prominent Democrat who co-hosted a recent political conference for black women where Abrams got a rousing welcome. “Whatever she decided to do, she would have an army of people ready to step in and help.”

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A record-breaking US trade deficit: Does it really matter?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit reached its highest sum ever last year, defying President Donald Trump’s efforts and promises to shrink it through his economic policies. The irony is that those policies likely contributed to the deficit.

Trump entered office insisting that decades of trade gaps had crushed the U.S. economy and that he would forge new agreements that would diminish the deficits.

It hasn’t happened.

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The government said Wednesday that the U.S. trade gap in goods and services reached $621 billion last year, its highest total since 2008. And the U.S. deficits in goods with China and Mexico surged to record highs.

As president, Trump’s signature effort to stimulate U.S. growth — deficit-funded tax cuts — likely helped fuel the willingness of American corporations and households to spend, including on imported goods. That is especially true at a time when much of the rest of the economic world has weakened and is less likely to buy U.S. goods. The result has been more imports than exports.

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